The words of the Minister of Consumption, Alberto Garzon, in 'The Guardian' have cast shadows of doubt about its production in Spain. All this, with regard to the so-called macrofarms or large cattle farms. The minister also contrasted the extensive with intensive livestock farming model. A speech that has cost him unanimous censorship of the main agricultural organizations (Asaja, COAG and UPA), as well as employers such as Anafric (Meat Business Association) and Fecic (Meat and Meat Industries Business Federation).
But are there reasons for concern about meat production in Spain? What weight do the so-called macrofarms have in the sector? From the producers' side, the main agricultural organizations Asaja, COAG and UPA agree on
highlight the complexity of a sector made up of more than 350,000 farms spread throughout Spain, according to the most recent data from the Ministry of Agriculture dating from 2020. Of all of them, 130,790 farms are dedicated to beef beef, 83,360 to porcine, 113,779 to sheep and goats, as well as 19,070 farms to the production of poultry meat. An activity that employs more than half a million people, to which must be added the nearly 200,000 workers employed in industries meat and retail trade.
From Asaja they emphasize that there are different types of farmers in Spain: From the medium and small family farms, of between 100 and 200 animals approximately, up to "More industrialized profiles" of farms of between 500 and 1,200 animals and that, in many cases, have industrial partners (slaughterhouses, feed factories, etc ...). Then there are the most large farms or macro farms characterized by "employing a considerable number of people." In this sense, they regret that prices at origin are not accompanying them and that the smaller farms "tend to give losses, which cannot be compensated later", leaving their place to the more professionalized and industrial farms.
From COAG Andoni García they warn against the «uberization of the field » and they estimate that between 45 and 50% of the value of what is produced is already in the hands of 7% of the companies. For this reason, they are committed to regulating the market and welcome the draft decree for the management of cattle (milk and meat), which will be brought to the Council of Ministers in the coming weeks by Agriculture. A standard that complements those already adopted for the pig and poultry sector. As the main novelty, it will limit cattle farms to a maximum of 850 UGM (Greater Livestock Unit). That is, to 725 milking cows or some 1,400 fattening calves. "We value the proposal of 850 UGM, but we bet on a maximum of 200 animals", says García.
But exactly what is the extent of the weight of macro-farms? The fact that this notion does not exist in current regulations makes it difficult for this concept to be included in official statistics. In any case, one usually goes to the State Register of Pollutant Emissions and Sources (PRTR) to get an idea: there are counted 7,100 industrial complexes with significant emissions, of which it is estimated that 53% are livestock. It must be taken into account that cattle are not obliged to submit these data (13,697 dairy farms and some 69,136 farms with suckler cows for breeding, according to Agriculture) so the list is reduced to a few 3,392 poultry and pig farms large, reports EFE. The majority concentrated in Aragon, Catalonia and Castilla y Léon. "We are against macro-exploitation or the industrial model," declares Román Santalla of UPA, whose organization has sent a letter to Garzón himself with two proposals: the promotion of a statute of family livestock and a specific labeling to be able to compete.
Estimates aside, the dilemma raised by Garzón about extensive and intensive livestock farming has generated outrage in the sector: Santalla (UPA) recalls that there are ecological family farms -3,529 farms in Spain- extensive, semi-extensive and intensive.
In Asaja they admit that "it would be desirable for everything to be extensive, but it is impossible because there is no territory or capacity to cover the most expensive production costs" and they emphasize that, on a day-to-day basis, "The consumer buys on an intensive day-to-day basis". Some farms that face intense supervision, they say.