Holy Cow

Carolina Arantes

2013 - 2019

Having been a sacred animal in Hinduism, the Zebu has it’s own cult in a lively capitalist occidental country, as one of the most significant commodities of the Brazilian commerce.

Brought to Brazil in lately 19th century, it has adapted to the geography in such a way that in 2012 Brazil overtook the US and became the largest exporter of beef in the world. The Brazilian meat market has reached a record in 2019 with US$7,45 billions of income and over 1,828 millions of tones of meat exported, numbers that keep growing and turns economy during these last years of crises.

The country occupies 25% of the international meat market. We can say that from each four steaks eaten in the world, one is from Brazilian origin.

These figures are only possible due to the genetic development of the breed in a use of extremely controlled artificial insemination to get to the perfect animal. The origin of the seeds as well as that of the eggs is studied upstream. Some are sold for $ 1 million and are cloned to maintain its genetical value alive. By genetical development and crossings, the rich Brazilian farmers are already preparing the next animals to be resistants to world climate change.

In 2019, Amazonian farmers purposely set fire to the rainforests to force cattle entrance into preserved environmental areas. Farmers, however, do not seem to worry about environmental crises. With the arrival of China among the Brazilian meat-buying countries in 2019, the rich farmers are preparing their lands for the growth of their activities.

Holy Cow is about the very starting point of the international meat business. It aims to understand the characteristics of the Brazilian rural capitalists, the ambiance and the identity of those who decide the quality of the meat we eat in the world today.

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  • Ronaldo Rodrigues da Cunha shoots a vulture from the window of his truck. The culture of fire arms are very expanded among farmers in the country that have been also requesting its legalization for private uses. They argue the use of fire arms will decrease violence in the rural area.
    ontes e Lacerda, 2017

  • Antonio Vieira Caetano, known as Mr Néném (Mr Baby)proudly shows a picture of his intervention on one of the last meetings of the Amazonian Rural Lobbie with the extreme right wing President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro.
    Bolsonaro has been dedicating very part of his administration to the farmers and cattle ranchers, publicly incentivizing the farmers to deforestation in Amazonia region; what has caused a strong international commotion after the Fire Day and the rising of forest burnings this year. Promising to arrange the land occupation conflict in the Amazonian region, Mr Bolsonaro aims to legalize illegal farmers occupations andopen indigenous protected areas to exploitation. In Amazonian region 60% of te farms are illegal, working without enviromental control and not paying taxes since the 70's, rising the size of their lands through deforestation over protected areas.

  • Cattle feedlot. The confinement has been growing in the country as an alternative to the spread land traditional way of raising animals. It is estimated that this tendancy will be continued during the next years. young traditional breeders try to change the way cattle are raised, choosing genetics, grass improvements and feedlot fattening. With the entry of China in the list of Brazilian meat buyers, these breeders are betting on these methods to sell better and faster, increasing the production and number of animals.Pontes e Lacerda, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015

  • Female calf enters an auction during ExpoZebu Cattle Fair. By the time, the animal was sold for almost US$ 1 million dollars. A price that indicates the animal quality on genetic material. Uberaba, Brazil, 2013

  • A cowboy sat in a fence, arranging his hat. Pontes e Lacerda, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015.

  • Jackeline Arruda, her brother Helio, his wife and other friends and farmers reunited in their weekly meeting for praying and reading the bible. Most farmers in the country are catholic and do practice the religion. Maraba

  • Mr. Pimenta da Veiga, ex former Minister of Communications during the ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso government, visiting the headquarters of the Brazilian Association of Zebu Cattle Breeders on the eve of the presidential elections of 2014. Mr Pimenta da Veiga was working in a lobby to the candidate Aécio Neves who had, later, lost the elections and was taken out of politics for being linked to serious corruptions investigations. Both politicians are part of the right wing party, PSDB, and have a long and historical relationship with the cattle farmers of the region. Uberaba, Brazil, 2014

  • Antonio Ronaldo Rodrigues da Cunha , 80, in his dinning room. Three generation running the cattle businessiness in the country, the Rodrigues da Cunha family is one of the most traditional Brazilian livestock farm workers in the country, and one of the first to bring cattle from India at the beginning of the 20th century. In 2014 the Rodrigues da Cunha conducts historical auction in the country selling almost 1000 field cows and earning almost one and a half million dollars. The family already bears a trademark of animals that are genetically selected for production. Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brazil

  • Cattle breeders in a private luxury cattle auction during the most important cattle Fairs of the country, the Expozebu. Uberaba, Brazil, 2013.

  • Area view of rural Maraba, a region known for its gigantic farms and large beef cattle breeders. In the background three different points of forest burns and areas of environmental preservation. A recurring scene in the region. During each drought a fire is set to clean large agricultural areas and deforestation. But in 2019, in particular, farmers deliberately set fire to the request for the occupation of environmental protection areas.

  • A calf is presented to sale at the private auction "Joias da Raça" (The Jews of the Race) organised by the farm Nova Trindade during the ExpoZebu Cattle Fair. The animal was sold for 1 million dollars. Uberaba, Brazil, 2013

  • Auction criers during a private luxury cattle's auction organised during the Expozebu. Animals can be sold for very high prizes. Uberaba, Brazil, 2013.

  • Rodrigo Rodrigues da Cunha, 27 years, the young financial manager of his familiar agro-business company, visit a 38 thousand acres farm in Mato Grosso recently acquired by the group. The familly business own 11 farms all over the country. Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015

  • Antonio Vieira Caetano meet a colleague from the Army at car shop in Maraba. Mr Nénem, as he is called in the region, cries "Selva!" (a typical shout from the army of Amazonian region, what means "jungle"). Ancien President of the Cattle farmer Union of Maraba, Para, Brazil,
    Mr. Nenem (Mr baby), as he is known in the region, arrived in Para at the beginning of the 70's, coming from Goias after the dictature government call on population for occupying the Amazonia.
    After working at the Army training soldiers, after working as a cattle cowboy, and working as a logger, Mr Nenem made his money out of a sawmill wood shop in Maraba. When the shop was closed due to the new legislation on wood commerce, Mr Neném started as a farmer, raisin cattle and fattening veals to the meat industry.
    Maraba, Brazil, 2019.

  • "Cat's Barbecue" as the meat skewers sold on the street are popularly called. Very popular, skewers are part of the culinary culture of the whole country. Brazil consumes 70% of the meat it produces, the meat being a food part of two daily Brazilian meals. A culture that has been questioned: the number of vegetarians has doubled in the last six years, reaching 29 million in Brazil

  • Cowboys sing the national hymn in a private luxury cattle's auction opening during ExpoZebu Cattle Fair. The nationalism has always been part of the farmers beliefs and has recently came back to fashion and open defense with the entrance of Bolsonaro in the government. Uberaba, Brazil, 2013

  • Mr Mario Franco's widow is his maid in the producer farm's prize room. Mr Mario Franco was one of the pioneers of cattle breeding in Brazil and the first to export animals to other countries. Advisor to former President Getulio Vargas, in the 1950s, his home received visits from international politicians such as Bush father, Margaret Tatcher, among others.

  • A bull jumps the fence trying to escape the truck entrance that led to the slaughterer.
    Brazil is the biggest meat seller on the world, being one in four steaks eaten internatinally from Brazilian origin. The intention of the rural lobbie is to double these numbers until 2025. Pontes e Lacerda, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015

  • Weslayne and her husband Yago, dancing at the opening of their Wedding party. Yago is a farmer, working with his father in a familiar business of fatting veals for the meat industry. Maraba

  • A laboratory collector collecting semen at ABS PecPlan, a leading international laboratory of bovine genetics. The genetic materials are an important part of the meat industry, not only for the value on breeding and race development but also for being itself a product and moving a commerce whose sales are important source of income for farmers. Uberaba, Brazil, 2015