Brazil, meat and the agenda

By Glauce Fleury

There’s a lot of buzz involving Brazilian meat. The alleged sale of rotten beef and poultry by major meat processors has triggered a debate on how good that meat is, how honest the involved ones are and how much impact this news will have on Brazil’s economy.

As a Brazilian-born and vegan, I was first shocked (how can this happen?). Then, hopeful (will Brazilians now eat less meat?). And, now, embarrassed (many have said all this buzz is a way the government has found to distract the population from major issues).

The first stories mentioned, among the allegations, that meat was being injected with chemicals to improve its appearance and smell. It was also being fleshed out with water and low-cost starch to increase its weight and, consequently, profits.

Apparently, some of the allegations that meat has been unsafe for consumption (caught up in audio leaks) are false, and were previously seen as true due to a misinterpretation of their contents.

For example:

  • Cardboard: the initial understanding was that it was an ingredient added to the meat. Now, it seems it’s been referred to as an alternative to the packaging system (which is currently plastic).
  • Ascorbic acid (vitamin C): its use was allegedly adopted to hide bad appearance and smell. But experts say that ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that helps stabilize the flavour and reduce the amount of nitrite, which has been used for meat curing in many countries.
  • Water: some chicken had been allegedly injected with water. Technically, this wouldn’t be harmful to the consumers’ health, but to their pockets, as it alters the weight.
    More details on these items on BBC Brasil (site in Portuguese)

These explanations help me understand why 9 out of 10 of my Brazilian friends haven’t stopped eating meat, and why the “churrascarias” (all-you-can-eat steakhouses) haven’t noticed any decrease in reservations since the scandal (story in Portuguese).

Still, I’m glad I don’t depend on animal products or byproducts to be happy and eat healthy. I no longer trust the quality of meat in the world. The reason is what I’ve seen in this industry, and its practices. Watch just one documentary, and think for yourself.

The news of many countries suspending imports from Brazil as a whole or from the specific producers under investigation shows their concern. China, Chile, Canada and Switzerland were among these nations, but some have since lifted the ban. Quick, no?

I couldn’t care less. Of course every country should be concerned about the foods being sold to their populations. But it’s quite frustrating to know that our governments aren’t concerned about:

  1. How the meat gets to their tables.
  2. How the meat industry turns animals into food.
  3. How to ensure that policies are properly observed and followed.

These are topics I care about. These are issues we should be discussing.

If this buzz is just part of the Brazilian government’s agenda to distract the population from major issues such as the reforms to the pension system — which will remove rights that workers have had since decades — it’s even more disturbing.

But that’s a story that doesn’t fit in this blog.

Photo credit: © Agencia Brasil Fotografias /Jose Cruz under Creative Commons via Flickr (Brazilian President, Michel Temer, ministers and ambassadors dine at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse days after the scandal).


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