As Mexican Pork Industry Expands, Environmental Concerns Follow (disponible en espańol)
Extensive territory, water resources, and port access have made the southeastern state of Yucatán a major player in Mexico's pork industry.
Emilio Godoy, NACLA
September 8, 2020
Godoy is an investigative journalist. / The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1966 that works toward a world in which the nations and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean are free from oppression and injustice, and enjoy a relationship with the United States based on mutual respect, free from economic and political subordination.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which governed trade between Canada, the United States, and Mexico from 1994 to this July, facilitated the expansion of industrial meat production in Mexico.
With its replacement, the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), and the growth of the Chinese market, the pork industry has found new areas of growth, while its social and environmental impacts multiply.
South-eastern Yucatán state has become the epicenter of this expansion, due to its strategic access to the United States and Asia through the port of Progreso, and the abundance of resources including water and GMO soy.
Alberto Rodríguez, president of the non-profit organization Consejo Maya del Poniente de Yucatán “Chikin Há”, says that water is the magnet attracting companies to the region. “Because there is a lot of water, the big pork farms come, it attracts them. To raise pigs, you need tons of water, because the animals can’t survive without it.”
Rodríguez, a campesino and fisherman who has been painting houses during the pandemic, lives in the ejido of Kinchil—a designation of communal land—in the municipality of the same name in the south east of Yucatán. The town is the site of a farm with 12,000 hogs, property of the Grupo Porcina Mexicano (Mexican Pork Group) company, known colloquially as Kekén, or pig in the Maya language, and one of the principal exporters to China and South Korea.
In July 2020, Mexico produced 136,000 tons of meat, 3.5 percent more than July 2019. Yucatán has become a new focal point of large-scale meat production, and now is the fourth most important state in the sector. As of March, Jalisco produced more meat than any other state, with 83,979 tons, followed by Sonora at 78,684 tons, Puebla with 42.801 tons and Yucatán at 36,733 tons.
Since 2014, meat consumption has also gone up, from 31 pounds per person in 2010 to 40 pounds in 2019. This shift has impacts in environmental resources across the country, as meat requires more water and grains to produce than other food sources.
NAFTA facilitated the transformation of the Mexican diet, by inducing increased consumption of processed foods, the production of inputs for these foods, and animal protein from industrialized farms. The United States innovated this model, based on the vertical integration of the production chain, and then exported it around the world to its neighbors and trade partners.
The U.S. also encouraged the export of American livestock to Mexican market, which as we will see later, may have been a factor in causing the swine flu pandemic in Mexico in 2009.
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Emilio Godoy is an investigative journalist. Based in Mexico, he writes about the environment, sustainable development, and the climate crisis. His articles have been published in Mexico, Central America, the United States, Belgium, and Spain, and have been cited in books and specialized magazines. In 2012, he won the Journalism Award for Green Economy and Sustainable Development, and in 2017 the In-Depth Report Award for Energy Journalism.
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