Brazilian restaurants in the United States have no beef with the U.S. government’s ban on meat from Brazil because the steaks they serve are all-American. Brazil is the world’s largest meat exporter but business has been marred by scandal and safety concerns and on Thursday the United States barred imports from there.
The ban will not be an issue for American diners hungry for Brazilian dishes such as picanha, a famous cut from a cow’s rump. “It doesn’t even come close to beef from Colorado,” Joao de Matos, one of the owners of top-notch Brazilian steakhouse Churrascaria Plataforma in New York City, said of his homeland’s beef in a telephone interview.
De Matos also buys meat from Texas, the biggest cattle producing state, and said he probably would not buy from Brazil even if the ban is lifted. “Our supplier is the same that we had for 21 years,” de Matos said. “He doesn’t even know what Brazilian beef is.” In Chicago, the historic center of the massive U.S. meat packing industry, managers of restaurants such as Carnivale and Zed451 said their themes may be Brazilian but the beef isn’t.
“We try to use local vendors but several chefs’ recipes are specific to Brazilian regions,” said an employee at Carnivale. “And we do have a couple of meats that come from Australia.” Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chao has more than two dozen restaurants across the United States, as well as nine in Brazil. None of the meat used at their U.S. restaurants comes from Brazil, Mary Nelson, a spokeswoman for the chain, said in an email.
A little over 7,000 metric tons of fresh beef has been imported to the United States from Brazil so far in 2017, said Eric Mittenthal, spokesman for trade association the North American Meat Institute. That is a tiny fraction of total U.S. meat consumption, he added. Much of the Brazilian meat is imported as trimmings, which typically end up used in hot dogs, meatballs and other processed meat products.