Having been – for more then a thousand year a sacred animal in Hinduism, the Zebu has it’s own cult in a lively capitalist occidental country, being admired, respected and studied on as one of the most significant commodities of the Brazilian international 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 had turned US$5,5 billion on 2016 of income over 1,4 million 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 five steaks eaten in the world, one is from Brazilian origin. The rich farmers are in constant negotiations with Brazilian Government with the intention to duplicate this number until 2025. This could mean also to duplicate the numbers of animals from 200 millions to 400 millions until that date.
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. An animal of this type will nevertheless be a supplier of genetic material and a father of 600 mil calves destined for slaughterhouses. 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.The project makes a panorama showing the very starting point of the Brazilian international meat business.
Holy Cow is a about the Power and mystery behind the Brazilian meat industry. And aims to understand the characteristics of the Brazilian rural capitalists and the contemporary identity of those who decide the meat we will eat in the world.
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
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
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
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. 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. During the 80's his grand father, Antonio Ronaldo, went to Mato Gross region to deforestate and create farms where it used to be a dense forest. Today, the familly business own 11 farms all over the country. Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015
A cowboy balances between the corral fences. Belonging to the family group Rofrigues da Cunha, this farm has about 30 thousand animals. Brazil has a herd of 210 million head of cattle, which means one animal per person. In 2019, with the arrival of China among the Brazilian beef consuming countries, there was a lack of sufficient herd for slaughter. The perspective among farmers is to double their production in the coming years.
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.
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.
Ronaldo Rodrigues da Cunha, the main head of the familiar agribusiness company, Agropecuaria Rodrigues da Cunha, on his private airplane flying from one farm to another farm of the group in Mato Grosso. The Rodrigues da Cunha have 11 farms all over the country and are one of the biggest meat producers and breeders. Pontes e Lacerda, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015
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
Cattle breeders in a private luxury cattle auction during the most important cattle Fairs of the country, the Expozebu. Uberaba, Brazil, 2013.
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
Max Queiroz and Tulio, commercial auctioneers, selling animals through the television chain and virtual auction, Estancia Bahia. Here animals are sold live on television to buyers from all over Brazil. Cuiaba, Mato Grosso, Brazil 2017
A cowboy sat in a fence, arranging his hat. Pontes e Lacerda, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2015.
Two cloned calves with only few months of life, laying down in the corral of Geneal Laboratory farm . Geneal is one of the most important laboratories of bovines clonning in Brazil, reaching to give birth to around 70 cloned animals per year. Cloned animals are animals that have reached a considerable level of genetic development and whose reproductive material is for sale in the country's laboratories. Buyers do not know if the material purchased is from the source animal or its clone. Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2017
Fresh ovules that have just arrived in the Bioembryo laboratory in Cuiaba. Each drop belongs to one different cow and the tiny white dots in the drops are the ovules ready for the insemination. The result is a result of the farmer's previous choice which defines which cow crosses which bull. Crossings like these are already being made with global warming in mind: a search for animals that will be better adapted to extreme weather conditions. Cuiaba, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2017
Auction criers during a private luxury cattle's auction organised during the Expozebu. Animals can be sold for very high prizes. Uberaba, Brazil, 2013.
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
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 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
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
Jabriel, the most prized bull of the Nelore breed. The bull was valued at almost US $ 800 thousand in 2016 and is today the most important bull in semen sale of the country. After the genetic laboratory where the animal leaves, Jabriel can be the father of more then 600 thousand animals in the country. Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 2017
"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