Geopolitics

Argentina's Meat Industry Has A Beef With Paul McCartney

Is the former Beatles band mate to blame for declining beef consumption in the BBQ-loving country?

A traditional asado (grill, barbecue) in Buenos Aires
A traditional asado (grill, barbecue) in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES — It goes without saying that beef is a big deal in Argentina, where barbecuing remains an almost sacrosanct pillar of social life. And yet, as of January, consumption has dropped to an historic low of 41 kilograms per person annually. So what gives?

That's the question Argentine beef lobbyists in what's known as the IPCVA, the meat industry's promotion institute, are asking. Could it be that the rise of vegetarianism and veganism are taking a toll?

The question has particular relevance given that just this past January, former Beatles singer Paul McCartney wrote to Argentine President Alberto Fernández to ask him to join the Meat Free Monday initiative.

To gauge the impact, IPCVA asked a sample population of 1,100 nationwide how they reacted to such actions on the part of environmental or vegan activists. The result? Seven out of 10 said that such campaigns did not lead to reduced meat consumption. Respondents found such actions ineffective, in other words.

Why, then, are Argentine's cutting back on beef? For money reasons, most likely.

That, at least, is the conclusion of the IPCVA, which accuses pro-vegetarian activists of being unnecessarily divisive. Their campaigns merely add to the "the social divides we sadly have in our country," the institute deplores.

Beef consumption has dropped to an historic low of 41 kg per person annually — Photo: Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EFE via ZUMA Press

In this case, the lobby group argues, there's a "food divide," with people expressing their opposition to one another "in the way each of us manifests his or her way of eating."

Most of the poll's respondents effectively blamed vegans for feeding this gastronomic divide, accusing them of being more "narrow-minded" than meat eaters.

How should the meat sector respond to this hostile setting? Should it defend itself?

The IPCVA tells this daily that "clearly" for both the countryside and the city, where meat is produced and consumed, meat was not to blame for "this senseless argument."

"A meat eater would never reject a vegan... and always make place for them at a barbecue, so they can share grilled vegetables if they want to," states the lobby group.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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