Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS)

The Criollo: Hope for a Struggling People


In the Nequen Province of Argentina, Criollo goat meat is cherished by both tourists and natives alike for its’ superior palatability (taste and flavor) over other breeds of goat in the area. The main reason for this difference stems back to where they are herded during the summer months, in the Highlands of the Andes. The Criollo are the only livestock adapted to these conditions and the only breed not grazing on a plant known as neneo, which doesn’t grow at the high altitudes. This is significant because when an animal grazes on this plant, it results in tainted meat of unsavory taste and therefore the Criollo meat is preferred over breeds that graze at lower altitudes. The Criollo has many other beneficial attributes as well, such as its ability to reproduce rapidly and its resilience to the harsh Andes environment. It is considered the most productive breed of livestock animal in this region based on these adaptations. The Criollo is an integral part of the cultural identity of the Crianceros or “goat herders” of the area. The Crianceros’ livelihoods depend almost entirely on this goat.

Although goat herding has been around for hundreds of years, the Criancero lifestyle is a difficult one with low income and unsuitable living conditions. As a result, many people of the younger generation are migrating to cities to find better opportunities. With issues such as shortage of labor, desertification and loss of land to major industries mounting, the criancero have no shortage of threats to their way of life. This makes increased profitability of their goats essential to saving their proud heritage, culture, and society.

In 2004 a collaborative effort between researchers, the local government, and Crianceros took place. This resulted in the creation of a “seal of origin” to differentiate Criollo goat meat from other meat breeds in order to charge a higher price. The rationale for the initiative was that if restaurants and butchers were able to charge more for meat with this special designation, the Criancero would also see an increase in an income. The seal was implemented in 2005, and within the first year, the Crianceros in the Nequen Province saw a 10% increase in income. Despite this achievement, conservation of this breed and the Criancero way of life continue to be challenging.

Major obstacles that the “seal of origin” faces are that the Criancero are not always directly benefitting from the increased price of meat, there are issues with traceability and infrastructure, and the seal does not cover a large enough range of territory. Despite these issues, the creation of a special identity of Criollo goat meat has been a key step in the conservation of this breed of goat and the Criancero lifestyle. Future conservation efforts of this well-adapted breed will continue to be essential to the livelihoods, cultural identity, and way of life of the Criancero and this important animal-the Criollo.

-Nicholaus Jackosky

Source: LPP, LIFE Network, IUCN–WISP and FAO. 2010. Adding value to livestock diversity – Marketing to promote local breeds and improve livelihoods. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper. No. 168. Rome.

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