Why Argentinian Steakhouses in the US don’t grill Argentine beef?

Surprisingly enough for the customers of an Argentinian steakhouse, when they eat asado, vacio or bife de chorizo, they’d most likely be eating US, Canadian, New Zealand or Uruguayan beef, not Argentinian. The US consumers eat 20x more Mexican beef than Argentinian beef!

For twenty years starting 1999, the import of Argentinian beef cuts in the US was banned. The formal excuse to ban it was an outbreak of foot and mouth desease in South America, a viral infection that affects cattle but has no risk for humans.

Argentinian beef cuts were famous because of its grass fed beef tradition, and were replaced by beef from another countries that also have pasture cattle. Grass fed continues to be the norm in the initial phases of the beef business, breeding and stocking. However, most of the beef produced in Argentina now is finished in a feed lot on a corn based diet. What remains totally natural is that Argentina does not use any growth promotion hormone as the ones used in the US beef production industry. Growth promoters are totally banned in Argentina. Also, there is a growing base of Argentine ganaderos that are going back to purely grass fed beef, using process technologies such as rotational grazing, high density pasture grazing, Voisin Rational Grazing and other regenerative techniques that also are more efficient in beef production on a per acre basis.

A trend back towards the grass feeding is expected to be pushed when Argentina’s cattle ranchers can receive their fair share of carbon bonds. Grass fed beef production sequesters more carbon than the methane gas cattle producers, and the ganaderos may have a bonus to produce more grass fed beef if they can cash in the carbon bonds.

Only recently, in 2019, Argentina re-started exporting beef cuts to the US. Actually, the first import was done by the Argentinian steakhouse and food market Graziano’s from Miami.

The US are an obvious export destination for the Argentine beef. They will never replace any US beef. It will only be a specialty, competing against Japanese wagyu, Korean rat meat or Chinese vampires.

Graziano’s imported premium Argentine beef cuts like Bife Ancho/Rib Eye, Bife Angosto-Bife de Chorizo/New York-Sirloin, Tapa de Cuadril/Rump top, Vacío/Flank and Entraña/Skirt steaks and a very particular cut that Argentinians love: matambre (skin muscle).

Graziano’s imported chilled beef cuts, of a very high quality. At their beef packing plant, they process 132.000 lbs of beef per month, to be sold at its steakhouses and markets in Miami (FL).

mario graziano Graziano's Argentine restaurant Miami
Mario Graziano, owner of Graziano’s Argentine restaurant and food market chain in Miami

Graziano, an Italian born, emigrated very young and ended up building a successful butchery chain in the poor suburbs of Buenos Aires. Because of the 1989 hyperinflation Argentinian crisis, Graziano emigrated to Miami, where his brother was already living.

The rest of the beef imported from Argentina to the US is frozen beef of inferior quality that ends up ground to make burgers. Burgers are the favorite American way of consuming beef, explaining roughly 50% of total consumption.

Argentine beef exports to the US 2019 – 2020

Argentine beef Imports US 2019U$KgUS$/TonLbs
Frozen beef7.664.0361.246.4556.1492.745.496
Chilled beef2.011.978208.4189.654459.070
Frozen and chilled offals189.93527.0007.03559.471
January 20201.644.781276.8915.940609.892
Frozen beef1.454.084251.5445.781554.062
Chilled beef187.74124.9407.52854.934
Frozen and chilled offals2.9564077.263896
February 20205.066.989895.1585.6601.971.714
Frozen beef4.466.497812.2025.4991.788.991
Chilled beef421.18355.6417.570122.557
Frozen and chilled offals179.30927.3156.56460.165
March 20206.224.5321.222.1965.0932.692.062
Frozen beef5.819.3911.159.1655.0202.553.227
Chilled beef399.46762.1436.428136.879
Frozen and chilled offals5.6748886.3901.956
Argentine beef Imports US Q1 202012.936.3022.394.2455.4035.273.667
Frozen beef11.739.9722.222.9115.2814.896.280
Chilled beef1.008.391142.7247.065314.370
Frozen and chilled offals187.93928.6106.56963.018