Buying or eating beef in Cuba

beef cuba

In Cuba, eating beef has always been a problem. Although people with health vulnerabilities or children, receive through the supply book a diet of just under 1 kg of beef per month, access to this fiber has always been difficult.

In fact, Cubans prefer not to mention the word “beef” because they know that they can go to jail just for buying it illegally.

Cubans have always criticized the harsh penalties for people who steal and slaughter cattle, who can receive heavy prison sentences for this crime.

“It is worse to kill a cow than a person,” they often comment.

Chapter 21 of the current Penal Code, Article 290, establishes as a crime the slaughter of cattle both for sale and for personal consumption, with penalties of imprisonment of two to five years.

In addition, those who sell, transport or commercialize this meat may be sanctioned from six months to three years in prison.

Receivers can suffer from three to nine months in prison and/or fines of up to 270 quotas.

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Even those cattle breeders who kill a cattle that has suffered an accident and must inevitably be slaughtered, can be sanctioned with three to nine months of imprisonment and/or fines of 270 quotas if they do not previously inform the authorities. 

Among the new measures adopted by the Government for the strengthening and development of agriculture and cattle raising, the sale of beef by cattle ranchers was approved, as long as they are limited quotas and after complying with their delivery plans to state entities.

A pound of beef in the official market exceeds 150 pesos, while “in the street”, due to its limited sale, is more expensive.

However, in a text published by the Ministry of Agriculture on livestock production, there is a reference to the fact that some of the peasants will directly sell products such as milk, cheese and meat in freely convertible currency (MNL), a currency to which most of the population does not have access.

illegal slaughter of cattle in cuba

Sanctions threatened for those who buy beef illegally

The Ministry of the Interior in Cuba (Minint) recently published on its web page a text in which it warns people who buy beef “on the street” that they can be sanctioned for the crime of receiving it.

According to the text, the people who illegally commercialize this meat are generally criminals who steal and slaughter the cattle belonging to cattle-raising Business Units (UEB) and private farmers.

The current Cuban Penal Code is severe against those who access beef through unofficial channels, since this crime, according to the text published by the Ministry of the Interior, also has social consequences and affects producers.

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In addition, by not knowing the origin of the animals or their state of health, consumers of illegal beef can suffer from brucellosis and tuberculosis, very aggressive diseases to human health.

“When these requirements are not met, we run the risk that the blood does not bleed properly, and this results in its contamination; the blood accumulates and bacteria and microorganisms can proliferate,” said Dr. Idania Espinosa Perez, specialist of the Sanitary Control front at the Ministry of Agriculture.

In the note published on the Cuban Minint website, allusion was made to a crime of theft and slaughter of livestock that occurred on November 15, 2021, when two citizens pretended to be fishing in the rivers of the Habana del Este municipality, and stole from nearby farms and then moved the meat to Guanabacoa, where they marketed it.

At the same time, the text recognizes that in spite of the strong sanctions against those who incur in the theft and slaughter of cattle and receipt of the meat, they have not been able to stop these crimes.

In 2021, 1689 heads of cattle were stolen in the province of Ciego de Avila alone, reported a report by the invading newspaper. According to the report, the illegal slaughter reported a loss to the economy of nine million pesos.

In the provinces of Sancti Spíritus a higher figure of 1746 cattle thefts was reported, in Las Tunas 3098, some 1212 in Matanzas and in Villa Clara, although exact numbers were not given, it was said that in 2021 this was the province with the highest incidence of these crimes.

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