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Argentina bars butchers from carrying ‘half-animal’ on their back

The traditional image of an Argentinian butcher weighed down by half a cow carcass on his back could be consigned to history after a government ruling.

Since coming to power in 2019, the centre-left government of President Alberto Fernandez has been determined to end the practice on hygiene and health grounds.

It ruled on Monday that the “half-animal” cut can be preserved — but butchers are no longer allowed to carry it on their back.

A butcher bent double under the huge cut is a well-known scene in beef-mad Argentina, where citizens eat almost 48 kilogrammes of the meat a year per capita, according to official statistics.

But the “half-animal” can weigh more than 100 kilogrammes, a crushing load for even the sturdiest butcher.

“The debate is about whether we continue commercialising beef like 150 years ago,” Agriculture Secretary Juan Jose Bahillo said recently.

Division over practice

The sector itself was divided over the long-running issue.

Some were in favour of modernisation and preventing large pieces of meat from coming into contact with different surfaces.

But many argued that new rules would benefit major exporters to the detriment of smaller producers without the means to invest in new machinery.

A 2020 law reduced the maximum weight of a beef cut that can be carried by a person to 25 kilogrammes.

That was amended the next year to 32 kilogrammes, but authorities still wanted to eliminate the half-animal cut.

This week, a compromise was found.

The half-animal cut remains, but it must be moved from trucks using a pulley and rail system, the Agriculture Ministry said.

The new law will be phased in “systematically and progressively,” it added.

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