Estancia Ranch, one of few remaining traditional pasture-based ranches in Argentina. (All photos by Jessica Weiss.)

Buenos Aires, Argentina: It’s no secret the people here love beef.

In 1958, the average Argentine consumed 216 pounds of it per year. (For context: U.S. beef consumption peaked in 1975 at 89 pounds per person.) Argentina was once the world’s fifth largest economy, due largely to the strength of its global dominance in the beef trade. Because of a grand confluence of factors including climate and natural grass diversity, Argentina was long known as a hungry cow’s heaven -- and the arbiter of the world’s best beef.

But today, much of the country’s famous grasslands have been turned over to crops. Beef consumption and exports are way down. And lest you think it’s because overall meat consumption is down, irony would have it that Argentina is now the world’s No. 1 exporter of soymeal, No. 2 of corn, and No. 3 of soybeans, increasingly used as animal feed in China, where meat-eating is through the roof.