The place was impossible to miss. With painted plaster cows lining the street, colorful lights twinkling from miniature grain silos, and old tractor tires recycled into sign holders and seats, Andres Carne de Res is a fixture of the Bogotano culinary and party scene. The restaurant/ bar/dance venue/ weekend escape destination is a novelty in that it attracts tourists and locals alike, all swarming to the party-style atmosphere and world renowned steak dinners.
I was in Colombia for a two week trip to visit my girlfriend, who has been living in the city for the past four months. She’d been living mostly on the abundantly available fresh fruits and vegetables that are ubiquitous in the city. Every street corner has a guy with a cart selling avocado and sliced mango in wax paper cups. We decided that a night of decadence and red meat was in order, though.
As the waitress led us through the maze of wooden tables overhung by low, smokey lamps, we were amazed at how large the place was. When I finally had a chance to ask her the capacity of the restaurant she replied that, in the course of any given night, they fed 2000 hungry carnivores!I thought about the incredible quantity of meat that one restaurant must plow through every night to feed that many people. The menu, which was just as flashy and crowded as the restaurant, was 30 pages long with its own index and glossary and most of the items in it were meat based dishes. One whole page was entirely devoted to steaks, some so large they were recommended to feed eight people!
Meat, especially beef, is a staple of traditional Colombian food. Most restaurants serving Colombian cuisine offer large platters of meats and fried corn patties called arepas. It made me think about the quantity and quality of all this food. In Colombia, when I told people that I work on a farm that raises grassfed beef, they looked confused. What other kind of beef is there? Feeding cows grass in South America is a no-brainer. In Argentina and Brazil there are millions of acres of pampas with climates perfect for growing lush grazing fodder.
For many South Americans, the amount of meat they consume is a function of availability and cost, not necessarily quality. The same is true everywhere but for now, they are getting delicious grassfed beef at the same cost that people in the US pay for their corn-and-soy-stuffed cows. Eventually, those resource rich places will begin to deplete from overuse. How many times have we heard the mantra ‘you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone’? While it’s fun to have a decadent 600 gram ribeye steak smothered in buttery garlic sauce now and again, it should be just that, a treat, not the norm.
I know this post doesn’t have much to do with the farm, but it has a direct connection in my mind. Our way of farming touts sustainability and environmental consciousness, but it must be paired with moderation or it renders itself impossible. Eating meat seems a healthy and natural part of life to me, but, like anything good, If you get too much, its bad.
So here’s to moderation, and to quality. And here’s to a little party once in a while!