The day has finally come: Argentines have been instructed by one of their own to cut back on their meat consumption. But it’s not because of a shortage or health concerns. The government is wagging its finger at supermarkets and butcher shops for purposefully keeping prices high despite the market value of meat having fallen.

Agriculture Minister Ricardo Buryaile led the attack yesterday when he told the general population that, “We’ve watched the market price of meat fall, but supermarket prices have not gone down at the same rate. If people have to stop consuming as much meat, then they should.”

The market price for meat fell from AR$31.09 in December to around AR$25.90, or 17 percent, but the supermarket price for meat rose between 14 and 16 percent in December and hasn’t budged since. Which is why the government is suggesting people abstain from meat if possible. A lofty request for one of top 5 meat consuming countries in the world.

Photo via OECD.
Photo via OECD.

“If one analyzes the price of meat in the supermarket, the percentage of price hikes is much higher than normal,” Dardo Chiesa, president of the Argentine Rural Confederation (CRA) said. “Evidently, prices have been hiked to make up for a situation that has nothing to do with the price of cattle.”

Many are blaming butchers and supermarkets in helping perpetuate the inflated meat prices.

“When the market price for meat rises, the commercial chains take advantage of it and change their prices, but when the market price drops, like it’s doing now, the price at the butcher shop doesn’t drop,” said Chiesa.

I love you. But I would love you more on my plate. Photo via flickr.

“[Butcher shops] account for almost 60 percent of sales, but in that case it is hard to control some of the representatives who pretend to be unaware of the drop in prices and keep attributing the rise in prices to the meat providers,” said Buryaile.

Vice President Gabriela Michetti put out a threat/warning that the administration is “seriously considering” importing meat in an effort to lower the price at home.

Carlos Burzi, the president of the Association of Butcher Shop Owners, countered that butchers are not to blame and that they only mark up the meat they sell by 30 percent of the price they get it for.

“We’re not victims, instead we’re a part of a system, and we are not to blame for the price of meat,” Burzi said.

Regardless of who’s pointing fingers at whom, prices for meat continue to be high and show little sign of dropping. But maybe after a short meat boycott, you might eventually be left with a bit more change in you pocket after hosting that asado.