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In many other regions, vast tracts of tropical forest limited the geographic and biological expansion of cattle. The miners of northeastern Antioquia, therefore, ate cattle bred in the distant Valle del Cauca, fattened on the highland pastures of Rionegro, and driven to slaughter in the mines amidst lowland forests West, , pp. Also, the initial population explosion did not last indefinitely: as their pressure on rangelands increased, the growth rates of herds tapered. By the late—eighteenth century, a growing demand for cattle —from expanding human populations, economic growth, and increased trade— began to squeeze existing stocks, causing prices to rise rather substantially Sourdis, , pp.
Beef, therefore, was not always in great abundance and inexpensive. Jeffrey Pilcher , pp. While the overall quantities may have been small, and consumption erratic, I suspect that it was sufficient to make meat —particularly beef— a key component of the national diet and culinary imagination. Robert West , p.
Mining ordinances from the seventeenth century required that Indian laborers be given 12 pounds of meat each per week West, , p.
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Even if the ordinances were not enforced, the stipulation that daily rations include almost two pounds of meat underlines its abundance. The half—rations of meat stipulated in case of a siege of Cartagena in the mid—eighteenth century for the militia, artisans, and workers included six ounces of beef and two ounces of bacon tocino per day Dorta, , pp.
Fray Juan de Santa Gertrudis Serra, , pp. For the highlands, Vargas , pp. Urban laborers appear to have eaten some meat, but by most accounts highland peasants consumed little Boussingault, , pp. By this time, cattle ranchers knew that good coffee prices translated into robust demand for their animals APNOyC, [Folder] , p.
They suggest, multiplied over the course of a year, that some Colombian laborers and even prisoners ate more meat, and considerably more beef, than most Europeans at the time Holmes, , pp. Most Colombians, however, did not eat half—a—pound of meat daily. This discrepancy between daily rations that were significantly higher than the national per capita rate of consumption probably stems, in good part, from the temporary and seasonal nature of much work.
It is possible that many Colombians obtained much of their meat in the form of rations while working for others. By the turn of the twentieth century, such recurring consumption helped beef to become a fixture —even if sometimes more symbolic than real— in the national diet and imagination. If work—rations were an important source of meat for many peasants, this probably reinforced differentiated consumption patterns by gender and age. Although the employment of women and children in such jobs as the coffee harvest possibly did a good deal to include them in the circuits of meat consumption.
Regional differences also mattered. Lowland residents also appear to have eaten more meat than highlanders, at least until the s or 40s Hettner, , p. For some groups, therefore, the beef tradition developed quite early; for others it solidified relatively late. Still others, such as the descendants of slaves, might have seen their consumption levels fall over the 19th and into the twentieth century see Taussig, , p. Colombians of all classes have a hard time considering that they have had a proper meal without at least a small piece of meat.
Those who subsist principally on carbohydrates do not consider themselves mainly vegetarian, but as meat—eaters who are forced to go without. And it explains why the price of beef has periodically become an issue of key political importance. Some scholars have argued that beef has stood at the pinnacle of the food hierarchy throughout much of Western civilization Twigg, ; Fiddes, ; Adams, ; see also Beardsworth and Keil, , pp.
Could it be that the Colombian and Latin American tradition of beef is rooted in such a larger cultural complex? Even though hogs multiplied more rapidly than cattle in the early colonial period, did people, when given the chance, deliberately choose beef? There is some evidence of an historic hierarchy of meats in Colombia. Inns and steamboats in the nineteenth century did not serve fish because it was considered too cheap Holton, , p. There might also have been some wariness about pork due to hygienic concerns Littman, In colonial Mexico City, with its heavy Spanish influence, mutton enjoyed this role; beef was cheaper and more plebeian Pilcher, , pp.
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Colonial mine owners in Colombia rewarded their administrators with ham West, , p. Pork has been considered a meat for special occasions: its consumption doubles during the end—of—the— year festivities Restrepo, , p. It is not clear, therefore, that some deep cultural preference for beef can explain its predominance see Orlove, What I want to emphasize here is the role of tradition.
And since beef was the most—consumed meat, a culinary tradition developed around it. People from all classes, regions, and races acquired a preference for beef and created a repertoire of ways to prepare it.
They likewise failed to develop a wide range of pork—based dishes, as a comparison between Mexican and Colombian cookbooks will show. Pork, therefore, had less culinary appeal. Since the mid—nineteenth century, there have been shifts in tastes and culinary practices: from salted or dried to fresh beef; from boiled to pan—fried; the slow spread of new cuts; the gradual diffusion of dishes once restricted to elites; the phenomenal growth of chicken consumption in recent years.
But many of these are variations on a theme; the basic structure of the cuisine remains very similar to what it was a century or more ago: a bit of meat amidst a plethora of starches. In many cuisines around the world, there is a propensity to pair pork and beans: feijoada Brazil , cassoulet southwestern France , split—pea soup northern Europe , fabada Asturias, Spain , pork—and—beans U.
Could it be that Colombians eat little pork partly because they are not big bean eaters? In Colombia, the region that consumes the most beans —Antioquia— is also one of the biggest consumers of pork Varela, , p. It is plausible that Colombia developed such a strong tradition of beef partly because of the availability of a wide variety of other starches besides beans —potatoes, yucca, plantain, among many others— all of which do well cooked in beef —rather than pork— flavored water.
This pork—bean link is not entirely consistent throughout Latin America. By themselves, beans are not a determinant. Nonetheless, this idea does suggest the variety of possible factors at play behind culinary traditions and consumption patterns. Historically, beef has been significantly cheaper than pork.
While the price data I have gathered so far is scattered, it does show a consistent, and often substantial, premium paid for pork. In general, however, the difference was upwards of 40 percent and sometimes it was even higher see Figure 3. Back in the eighteenth century, pork was four times the price of beef Vargas, , p.
After all, if pork costs 40 percent more than beef, the decision by a poor family of which meat to buy does not seem very difficult. There, hog raising expanded after the government restricted lard imports. Instead of shipping live hogs to the interior of the country, butchers slaughtered them locally and tins of lard were sent inland. Without a way to transport the meat to other markets, it had to be consumed quickly in the region. This seeming paradox can be explained only if we pay attention to the characteristics of the meat not just its cost.
Proportionally, wealthier people eat more pork because they can afford it. In other words, the poor sometimes bought pork because of its property as a flavoring agent rather than to eat meat per se. Hogs are generally considered to be more productive than cattle: they convert feed into flesh more efficiently; they are more prolific; they grow and fatten faster; and they consume waste products not only farm surplus but inferior agricultural products with little value, waste from agricultural processing, and kitchen scraps.
Additionally, hogs can forage for themselves; and some creole breeds e. The advantages of raising hogs were such that most peasant households tried to keep at least a few CIAT, , p. Given the low opportunity—cost of many hogs, why would pork be more expensive than beef? Ernst—Ludwig Littman , p. From the biological point of view, this is a contradiction, since the efficiency of converting forage into meat is higher in hogs than cattle. The explanation is found in the existence of vast extensions of natural grasses in Colombia just as in Argentina, which can be used for extensive cattle production without large investments….
Ample land resources and the availability of labor give a decisive advantage to cattle raising at the cost of hog farming. Cheap grass, principally from natural grasslands, enabled Latin American cattle to out—compete hogs. Here, cheap savanna land has been less critical to the national cattle industry than perhaps elsewhere in Latin America. The center of Colombian ranching for the last century or so has been the Caribbean coast and Antioquia. This transformation of forest into pasture, however, was often difficult, risky and expensive: grass was not cheap for the taking Van Ausdal, MS.
Much of the price premium for pork can be traced back to the high cost of feed. Data, especially before , is difficult to find, scattered geographically and temporally, and is not always easily comparable. One way to try to address the comparability problem is to calculate production costs in terms of the labor required to fatten hogs and cattle.
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Based on data from Antioquia in the s, I calculate that it took roughly six or seven days of labor to produce the corn necessary to fatten one hog. One of the main advantages of raising cattle rather than hogs was that the substantial initial cost of buying or developing pasture land could be amortized over a relatively long period of time; by contrast, the land preparation and weeding costs needed to grow corn were a constant and heavy burden. A quick comparison with the United States provides some perspective on the amount of effort that went into farming corn in Colombia.
There was some difference in the yield per hectare: in the U. But a key part of the difference was the amount of time required to produce that hectare of corn. In the U. Dawe , p. After all, hogs can grow and fatten on other types of feed besides corn and other costly crops. They do well, for example, on waste products from the farm and kitchen, and can forage for themselves. Around , Kathryn Wylie , p. Even into the s, most hogs in Colombia were raised by peasants or small—scale farmers who relied principally on feed with limited or no market value Restrepo, It is not obvious, therefore, that the price of grain would be so critical to the hog industry.
Tulio Ospina , p. The to percent difference between the price of thin and fat hogs likely rested on the low opportunity—costs of breeding pigs and the importance of corn to fatten them. Farmers generally allowed their hogs to roam freely, feeding on pasture grasses and in fallow fields or forests until the age of 10 to 12 months. Afterwards, however, enough hogs did fatten on corn and other agricultural products for it to become an important determinant in the price of pork and lard.
If they walk much without being fed, hogs will burn off their stores of fat and profit. This circumscribed the geographic area in which they could be profitably fattened for a particular market. When frontier lands were relatively close to major markets, hogs were a convenient way to transform surplus corn or other crop into a mobile and marketable product.
Similarly, extensive hog raising where land was cheap, whether by foraging, scavenging, or feeding on pasture grasses and legumes, was mostly limited to thin animals. Fat hogs needed a relatively easy way to get to market or had to be slaughtered locally. It was more profitable to sell tins of lard to the interior of the country, even though this undercut the price of pork locally, than send live hogs. Because grains were expensive, hogs were principally a backyard activity that turned waste products into cash and took advantage of female and child labor.
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Since each peasant household could only generate so much waste, this limited the number of hogs they could profitably raise. As a result, cattle far outnumbered hogs. A team of livestock experts from the United Nations , p. Small hog populations likely helped boost prices. First, the settlement of the agrarian frontier and the spread of pasturelands eventually undercut hog raising.
Corn yields tended to be high in lands recently cleared of old—growth forest, and hogs were a convenient way to transport surpluses to market. Areas of colonization, therefore, were often important hog producers. The bonanza years were short—lived, however. And as falling corn yields pushed the corn—hog complex increasingly further from markets, it became harder to profitably use hogs to turn surpluses into mobile commodities Parsons, , p.
Furthermore, the introduction of African pasture grasses in the mid—nineteenth century helped changed the dynamics of pasture formation. They encouraged ranchers to develop new pastures out of the forest and farmers to plant grass in fallow fields. As a result, the once forested landscape —or patchwork of forest, fallow, and field— became increasingly dominated by grass. The development of new pastures initially stimulated corn production, which was used to loosen the soil before planting grass and help cover expenses.
In the long run, however, the spread of permanent pastures stimulated cattle ranching at the expense of hogs. There is some scattered evidence to suggest that Colombians, at least in some regions, consumed more pork when there was more forest and less grass.
Pork consumption, though never very strong, may have slowly tapered off as colonos and cattle ranchers cleared the forests and planted grass see Figure 1. But there were some practical reasons as well. For example, there were greater economies of scale in raising cattle than extensively—raised hogs Poveda, , p.
Many also thought that intensive hog raising was not worth the effort. For hacendados without a ready supply of waste products that they could use for feed, raising hogs would require them to become farmers. Also, there were few economies of scale in farming staples until the spread of mechanization in the s. One reason was the late urbanization of the country. Small urban markets, and low purchasing power more generally, limited the amount of available by—products. The geographic dispersion of waste material further limited the economies of scale that could have turned them into low—cost sources of feed.
For example, without a system of cold chains with which to centralize slaughtering, every municipality had its own slaughterhouse. Even in the second half of the twentieth century, many of these were too small to warrant processing their waste United Nations, , pp. Even where there was a high degree of concentration, such as the vegetable oil industry in Barranquilla, high transportation costs discouraged the use of cottonseed cake as hog feed.
Even in the second half of the twentieth century, most Colombian hogs were hardy, self —reliant, disease— resistant creole breeds that had adapted well to local environments. Before , boosters claimed that it was possible to raise hogs in six to ten months and fatten them in two Bernal, , p. Even in the early s, it could take 15 to 18 months before they were ready for slaughter CIAT, , p. Slaughtering hogs at this late age meant that they did not produce meat much more efficiently than cattle. Pork was expensive because of the high cost of corn, used to fatten hogs, as well as a small pig population.
These immediate causes, in turn, were rooted in the low productivity of Colombian agriculture, a small national market, the slow process of industrialization, elite disinterest, and the advantages of pasture and cattle. Was it primarily an economic issue?
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Or did politics, power, and policy decisions also have an impact? In this section, I look at the politics behind meat consumption in two different ways. Second, I explore how the politics of lard imports helped to undermine pork consumption. There are two ways this monopolization might have influenced meat consumption patterns. On the one hand, ranchers may have boosted the competitiveness of beef by raising cattle on the best agricultural land in the country.
In so doing, they benefited from better pastures and more productive cattle operations. But more importantly, their control of the flat, fertile valley floors forced peasant agriculture onto more marginal hillsides, lowering its productivity and raising food and feed prices. On the other hand, it is possible that the general monopolization of land also contributed to the competitiveness of cattle. One consequence of this monopolization was a land—hungry peasantry that was willing to clear forests and plant pasture in exchange for temporary access to land.
In such arrangements, ranchers provided peasants with patches of forested land to farm for a few years so long as they returned it under grass. Another consequence of this monopolization was to push peasants out to the agrarian frontier where they would undertake the hard labor of settling the forest. Ranchers later followed them to consolidate the lands that they had cleared Fals Borda, , , pp. Beef might have also benefited from the labor of these peasant colonizers through cheap land sales and the usurpation of developed plots.
Lastly, the unequal land tenure structure squeezed the peasantry onto a small land base. Since peasants raised the bulk of the hogs in the country, the reduced size of their farms limited the number that each family was capable of raising and, therefore, the overall pig population. Any substantial expansion of hog raising would likely have depended on obtaining a cheap source of feed. Even though the peasantry might have been able to raise more hogs if they had greater access to land, there still remained the problem of fattening them for market.
While they could have also grown more corn, without some way to substantially increase the productivity of their labor, hog and pork prices would have remained high. Additionally, without high—protein feed supplements, peasant hogs were not much more efficient than cattle at producing meat.
There are limits to how much land usurpation subsidized the price of beef. A sharp reduction of lard imports during WWI stimulated the domestic industry. This measure considerably slowed imports but did not stop them. The following year, therefore, the government promulgated a sanitary regulation that effectively put an end to the trade. However, while the treaty reduced the tariff by 50 percent, it did not address the sanitary restrictions. Though whether or not the country could have afforded much higher lard prices, without drastically reducing its consumption, is another question.
In fact, the government designed the measures to protect the nascent vegetable oil industry. By limiting lard imports, and reducing the duty on copra, the primary raw material in vegetable shortening, officials helped domestic manufacturers lower their production costs and grab a larger market share. Hog producers initially benefited from the measures. In the long run, however, they lost out as vegetable shortening and eventually oil displaced lard as the preeminent cooking fat. The principal reason, I argue, is that pork has long been more expensive than beef; and that this price difference is rooted in the low productivity of Colombian agriculture.
But the road to understanding consumption patterns is rarely straight and short. Although consumption studies have recently begun to emphasize the ideological and contested nature of food and diet, my focus here has been largely material: on what has influenced price and supply rather than the cultural politics of demand. Food is not just a matter of sustenance; a range of symbolic, cultural and political factors shape what and how we eat. Nonetheless, in the case of meat consumption in Colombia, the high cost of corn and pork did much to secure the long—held predominance of beef.
Bell, P. Colombia: A Commercial and Industrial Handbook. Washington: Government Printing Office. Boyd, W. Fals Borda, O. Historia Doble de la Costa 4: Retorno a la Tierra. Consumption — Core Consumption Data. Data Archives — Prices — Livestock Primary.
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Arboleda C. Barsky, O. Buenos Aires: Grijalbo Mondadori. Beardsworth, A. London: Routledge. Bejarano, J. Bishko, C. Hispanic American Historical Review , 32 4 , — Boussingault, J. Memorias de Jean Baptiste Boussingault. Watts Eds. Brew, R. Brungardt, M. Unpublished Ph. Calero, L. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Cronon, W. New York: W. Crosby, A. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Currie, L. When the UNC students are in NPH they live in the orphanage bedroom and eat and live with the children in the dining room of the house, this is something that cultivates a close relationship with the children and leads to a better understanding of their needs and, therefore, to better attention to the needs of the little ones.
In the home, students also gain direct experience with the health care system in Mexico and get a first-hand view of how developing nations support places like this where medical resources are limited and dental services are scarce. It is clear that the children of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos play a key factor in the project. All UNC students return with a different mindset after having had such a close relationship with the orphans.
The orphanage is an amazing place simply full of love and care. Everything functions as a great family where children participate in the work and organization of the orphanage and at the same time they are valued and educated to be better human beings and professionals.
This vision of struggle and tireless effort is not ignored by visiting students, every year the main donations to the Project Mexico come from alumni who had the opportunity to share this wonderful experience in Mexico in the past. After Dr. Strauss left the school of dentistry, the Department of Dental Ecology was coordinating the Project contacting local dentist in Mexico to host the program.
In Dr. Carolina Vera started as the new faculty advisor of the Project. She wanted to change the concept of the Mexico Project from being just a community outreach program helping the underserved to a true interchange of education, research, scientific and professional knowledge, and Bi-national collaboration and culture. This group is constantly working and creating several projects in the areas of Economics, Health and Education with the help and support of the Mexican Government.
She has combined efforts in order to provide a broad exposure of the social, professional, cultural and educational resources that the country has. Students travel through cultural areas and when they visit educational centers, hospitals and institutes, they receive lectures in specialized medical or dental areas by qualified professionals in the area and visit institutions guided by dentists or voluntary physicians in this project.
Vera started the second stage of growth of the program taking the Mexico Project to the next level in terms of education and research opportunities for the students of both countries. The Mexico Project is expanded to four different states in Mexico providing preventive dental care and support to the ones in need in the states of Morelos, Queretaro, Puebla and State of Mexico. The Project is working with the help of the Mexican Government- Minister of Health, and the collaboration of professors, graduate and undergraduate students of the most prestigious local Universities of each state, the International College of Dentists, the local orphanages in every state and of course the support and sponsorship of private practitioners and local institutions who want to give back to the community by joining efforts with the UNC students.
This year Dr.