Commodity Corner

Views on commodities and energy

Beef off menus, on agenda in Argentina

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If there’s one thing that gets Argentines hot under the collar, it’s rising beef prices, so it’s not surprising that surging costs at the butcher shop are ringing alarm bells at the presidential palace.
    Local TV stations are reporting a collapse in sales and some angry steak lovers have even set up a Facebook group to promote a one-week beef-eating strike. Some cuts have gone up by as much as 50 percent since the start of the year, according to local media, forcing government officials to play down the hikes as a temporary blip and blame their old enemies — the farmers.
    Economy Minister Amado Boudou has blamed recent rains for the price rise, saying ranchers are keeping their animals out grazing on the lush Pampas pastures instead of sending them to market.
    President Cristina Fernandez, who enthusiastically promoted pork as an alternative to beef by comparing it to Viagra last month, also pointed a finger at the weather, but took a pop at ranchers too.
    “It’s true, beef’s gone up. It’s gone up a lot, as has the price the farmers are getting,” she said this week, drawing an angry response from farm leaders, who said short-sighted government policy and middlemen were the real villains.
    The government has curbed exports on-and-off for years to keep a lid on the cost of the nation’s favorite food and the current spike in prices has raised the specter of fresh disruption to shipments from the country, a leading exporter.
    But as beef becomes increasingly unaffordable, some Argentine shoppers might be taking the president’s pork recommendation a lot more seriously.

Michael Pollan: “What’s in the beef?”

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Photo by Kris Krüg

Where does your burger come from? Journalist and food writer Michael Pollan has traced back the source of much of what we eat, and says that the ultimate answer is oil. Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, argues that it takes massive amounts of petroleum-derived fertilizers and pesticides to run industrial farms and feed lots, with dire consequences for human health and the Earth’s climate.

Check out Pollan’s multimedia presentation below, from the Poptech conference in Camden, Maine last month.

The Devil is in the details

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Numbers, or rather the lack of them, are the latest gripe of Argentina’s disgruntled farm sector.

Statistics published by the government for years have been disappearing since the Agriculture Secretariat ceded control of the country’s multibillion-dollar grains and beef trade to another state agency, the ONCCA, earlier this year.