Brazil keeps more cows in confinement to meet China’s demand

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Aerial view of cows who live their whole life in a feedlot, photo: Bim via Canva

Driven by Chinese demand, cows are more and more kept in feedlots in Brazil instead of living on large land areas eating grass, industry sources said. China buys about 50% of Brazil’s exported beef.

Most cows kept in confinement go to exporting slaughterhouses, said Hugo Cunha, manager at Dutch science and (animal) food multinational DSM.

Cunha said China only buys animals that are 2,5 years old, and the only way to fatten up cows enough in 30 months is by keeping them in feedlots, small areas or buildings where the cows are kept and fed or fattened.

In 2021, 27.54 million cows were slaughtered in Brazil, according to government statistics bureau IBGE. Around 23% of those animals were raised in feedlots.

Five years ago, 29.7 million cows were slaughtered in Brazil, according to IBGE data. Then, only 13% of the animals were raised in confinement.

Since 2019, the number of confinement facilities or feedlots has grown in Brazil. Currently, 37 Brazilian cow slaughterhouses can sell beef to China, according to industry and government data.

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