During investigations about blood farms and horsemeat production in Uruguay, teams of TSB|AWF came across cattle feedlots. Feedlots are open-air fattening farms, where animals are kept in a confined space without access to pasture. In Uruguay, feedlot beef is produced almost exclusively for the EU and Swiss market and is exported as “High Quality Beef” (HQB). The EU and Swiss import regulations for HQB require that bovines have been fed a diet containing not less than 62 – 70 % of grain for at least 100 days before slaughter. This special feeding gives the meat a characteristic colour and texture. However, these feeding requirements are against the welfare of ruminants, whose digestion is meant for roughage. As the proportion of grain increases in the diet, the risk of digestive upset increases as well.
Between 2016 and 2018, our teams visited 13 different feedlots in Uruguay and identified numerous animal welfare concerns:
The bovines have permanent access to grain feed, and many are severely overweight. In the 100 – 120 days of confinement, they achieve a weight gain of 1.4 – 1.5 kg per day.
Tongue rolling is a stereotypic behaviour that may be caused by frustration due to restricted access to roughage.
In some feedlots, the pens are very overcrowded.
Most animals have no protection from adverse weather conditions, which can lead to heat or cold stress. Only a few feedlots offer shelter, but insufficient in number and size.
The feedlot floors are a mixture of excrements and soil. The animals have difficulties walking in the deep manure. After rainfall, they sink into the mud up to their knees.
The bovines have to lie down in the dirt, as there are no dry and clean resting areas.
A large number of animals are excessively soiled with faeces and dirt.
Sometimes animals give birth in feedlots, but there is no infrastructure for calving bovines or new-born calves.
There are currently more than 100 feedlots in Uruguay. Their number has been growing steadily since the introduction of a new duty-free import quota for HQB by the EU in 2012. The import regulations of the EU and Switzerland have negative effects on animal welfare in Uruguay and other third countries, where cattle are traditionally kept on grassland. TSB and AWF believe that feedlot beef is produced under cruel conditions. We call upon the authorities to only allow meat imports which have been produced in compliance with EU and OIE animal welfare standards.
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