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Pig Farming Makes Inroads In Beef-Loving Argentina

A pig farm outside Buenos Aires is a carefully planned, self-sustaining and multidimensional business that shows how Argentina stays ahead in the competitive world of food production.

Preparing meat at Estancias y Cabaña Las Lilas
Preparing meat at Estancias y Cabaña Las Lilas
Pablo Losada

SAN ANTONIO DE ARECO — Estancias y Cabaña Las Lilas is one of Argentina's leading livestock firms, prospering in a country that loves beef and barbecues.

And while the firm was already known for breeding cattle and for efficient land management, it began feasibility studies in 2013 for for a pig farm in San Antonio de Areca, a province west of Buenos Aires. By mid-2015, it had a functioning farm there called Piggyland, tapping into the growing pork consumption in bovine-crazy Argentina.

Like the firm's beef business, the pig farming operations works in three areas: breeding and selling fresh meat, and serving its meat in the brand's own restaurant in the capital.

"We spotted a strategic opportunity."

Oscar Ratto, manager of Piggyland, said the firm's directors had no doubt there was a business to build around pork consumption. "We spotted a strategic opportunity in the pig business and in the consumption of fresh pork meat in Argentina," he recalled. "It was also a form of generating added value through consumption of more corn" that the firm grows elsewhere.

Ratto, who touts a degree in economics, has been working with the firm since 2003. In the first stage of the new pig-farming operation, the firm built 12 sheds on a 35-hectare plot, with some serving as slaughtering operations and others for maternity, weaning and genetic selection. The second phase of Piggyland is planned to begin in 2021 to more than double the breeding capacity. Sows generally give birth to 13 piglets on average, though Ratto says they need three years to reach their optimum reproductive state.

Meanwhile, as the business perfects its insemination and reproductive model, it has begun thinking about energy use. Las Lilas is set to complete work on four biodigestors to produce biogas and then electric power. Ratto says the aim is for the caloric energy needed for motherhood will then be "converted" into electricity for the entire farm. The aim is to be energy self-sufficient.

Piggyland is conceived as a multi-dimensional business model with fresh meat sales as its backbone. The firm is not worried about pressures in the local market to sell imported pork. "We produce meat for direct consumption, while the imported meat is frozen and ends up mixed into meat products. We are aiming at different markets. We believe our quality products and services will be a reference worldwide," says Ratto.

He points out the role of corn, a strategic cereal essential to much livestock farming. "We consume 4,000 tons a year on the farm, and bring them from fields the firm has in Pasteur, which is not far from San Antonio de Areco," says Ratto. "This in turn leads to 3,500 tons of pork meat, which we sell directly to customers."

Investment, technology, sustainability: these are the values on which the veteran firm is banking to expand in the age of high-tech farming.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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