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LIFE IN SPAIN

Your views: Is Spanish meat good quality?

In recent days a debate about the quality of Spain’s meat has been raging across the country after the Consumer Affairs Minister claimed that megafarms are exporting poor-quality produce. We asked you, our readers, to give us your opinions on the taste, texture and overall quality of 'carne' (meat) in Spain.

Your views: Is Spanish meat good quality?
More than half of our readers said the quality of meatin Spain is very good compared with other countries. Photo: Priscila Sanchez/Pixabay

Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzón claimed in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian that mega-farms are damaging the environment and leading to the export of poor-quality meat from the country.

“What isn’t at all sustainable is these so-called mega-farms. They find a village in a depopulated bit of Spain and put in 4,000, or 5,000 or 10,000 head of cattle,” he told the newspaper.

“They pollute the soil, they pollute the water and then they export this poor-quality meat from these ill-treated animals”.

Since these comments were published, there has been an uproar about his comments both across farmers’ unions and in the government. 

Much of what the minister has said has been taken out of context and it’s important to point out that Garzón wasn’t talking about the quality of Spanish meat in general, he was only talking about the mass-produced meat from mega farms in certain regions. 

READ ALSO – KEY STATS: What you need to know about Spain’s mega farms

There is scientific evidence proving that intensive livestock farming is damaging Spain’s environment and water supplies, but is there any evidence to suggest that it actually produces poor quality meat too? 

According to Greenpeace Spain, the mega farm system always seeks the highest production of meat, milk and eggs at the lowest cost and in the shortest possible time, all to maximise profits. 

This means that a large number of animals are crammed into confined spaces rather than grazing or foraging outdoors, fed with cheap feed imported from other countries, and pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals to help them survive in these unsanitary living conditions. 

The Local Spain has not found evidence of any official study conducted in Spain which calls into question the quality of the meat as a result of intensive livestock farming. 

Most of the international reporting on meat quality standards is from animal rights groups who write that scientific studies prove factory farming can lead to the bacterial contamination of meat, such as salmonella and E. coli, and can be breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

But according to Spain’s Agriculture Ministry, only 1 percent of pig farms and 3 percent of cow farms in the country can be considered large scale, meaning that most of the many different types of meat produced in Spain don’t come from these macrogranjas (as they’re called in Spanish), although this doesn’t guarantee they don’t use a similar production model.

Cured pigs legs hanging from the ceiling are a common sight in Spanish supermarkets and bars.
Cured pigs legs hanging from the ceiling are a common sight in Spanish supermarkets and bars. Photo: Pixels4Free from Pixabay

If you take the example of Spain’s jamón ibérico de bellota, high-quality cured ham from pigs fed on acorns in outdoor pastures, the rearing model to obtain its exquisite taste is completely the opposite of factory farming.

What do The Local’s readers think of the quality of Spain’s meat?

Meat, whether cured or cooked, is an intrinsic part of the daily diet in Spain, so we decided to ask our readers what they really thought about the quality of Spain’s meat and how it compares to other countries.

Half of our respondents (50.9 percent) thought that Spanish meat wasn’t bad quality at all and actually thought it was very good compared with other countries.

Readers Anna and Christopher agreed with the Spanish Prime Minister’s recent words when arguing that Spanish meat is of “excellent quality”.

Harriet also agreed, saying: “Spanish ham, pork products, veal, and lamb are some of the finest meats in the world! We go to Spain often to eat!”.

Ann McKiernan also praised the quality of meat in Spain. She told The Local: “I’m happy with the quality, it compares favourably to meat I can purchase in other countries. I’d prefer more availability of different cuts/thicknesses in supermarkets but generally, I can find what I need in butchers, even with my rather limited Spanish”.

Jens Riis also couldn’t fault the quality of Spanish meat. “Here in Madrid, we get excellent meat: beef, pork, lamb; it’s almost always top drawer, never bad,” she said.

Jorge thought that Spain has some of the best meat in Europe with sustainable livestock, while Bruce thought that both the quality and price are excellent, and Daniel said that “it’s really tasty”.

Not everyone agreed however and around a quarter of our respondents (24.6 percent) said that ‘yes’ Spanish meat is bad. Many of the answers agreed with Garzón’s comments about the bad quality of meat from mega-farms, but several people also thought the taste and the texture weren’t good either. 

Maria thought that the animals in Spain are not fed quality food. “They should be grass-fed and they are not given proper living standards,” she said. “As a result, the meat doesn’t look or taste as good”. 

Jane Pritchard  told The Local: “The standard of beef and lamb is extremely poor quality and very expensive, particularly lamb. I assume it’s because there is no decent grazing for the animals. Having been used to salt marsh lamb in the UK we have been spoiled. Ibérico ham is lovely, but we can’t live on pork”.  

butcher cebada market madrid spain
Foreigners in Spain have very different opinions about the quality of Spanish meat. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

Valerie concurred with Jane’s comments, saying that “the availability of large joints is very limited. The lamb joints are tiny plus the quality and taste are poor. I don’t see any meat claiming to have good husbandry care, I think most meat in Spain is mass produced”.

Chris Foster also thought similarly when he said: “I can’t find organic meat locally and the animal farms I have seen here are terrible. The food they are fed looks terrible too”. 

Meanwhile, a few respondents focused on the taste of the meat.

Thomas said: “It tastes strange, not like in other EU countries. It’s very weird. I’m now mostly vegetarian”.

Alan Robinson completely agreed “We find it tough and tasteless,” he said. “It would be so much better if they left some fat on it too”.

Roger simply thought that good quality beef was very hard to find, while Brian Wall thought that most types of Spanish meat are bad, but mainly due to the way it’s cut in Spain.

“The Spanish butchers don’t use or know the proper cuts of beef so their steaks are never what we expect. As a result, steak is always disappointing for a Brit used to traditional sirloin or rump etc. Furthermore, the Spanish lamb is atrocious. I don’t know where it comes from but it is awful and expensive. Finally, Spanish traditionally seem to prefer wafer-thin chops and I have to remind the butcher to cut it thicker. My brother is a top-class chef and has trouble sourcing decent meat,” he said. 

On the other hand, a quarter of respondents said that the quality of meat in Spain depends. Most agreed that good quality meat is available in Spain, but that depends on where you buy it from, but others said it depended on the type of meat you buy too.

John Latka explained: “It very much depends where you purchase your meat. I avoid the supermarkets and buy from a reputable butcher”.

Jonathan said that “Of course there is high-quality meat available in Spain, if you are willing to pay for it…. most of what you see in the supermarket or served at an average restaurant is the kind of stuff that Garzón is talking about. There is a demand for cheap meat, and lots of it, a demand that these farms serve. The megafarms don’t employ proportionally as many people, so if you could persuade the population to reduce their meat consumption, but spend about the same on a smaller quantity of better-quality product, you might even improve the economy”.

Rob H agreed saying: “Generally speaking, meat from traditional pastures is of good quality. Spain produces meat in a variety of ways and it is sold at a variety of prices. You get what you pay for. Personally, I try to buy locally produced meat that I know doesn’t come from a huge, industrially-run factory farm. If you want quality you should buy your meat at a butcher and ask where it comes from. If price is a priority, as it understandably is for many people, it is still possible to buy local meat, but never at the lowest price”. 

Anna also thought that it depended on where the meat is sourced. “Animal products produced on small farms using traditional farming methods is of excellent quality, both ethically, health-wise. Supermarket meat from mega-farms involves animal abuse and is dangerous to consume,” she said. 

Susan Wallace said: “I have bought some excellent quality fresh meat, especially organic.  And I think bellota jamón products are of very high quality, too.  But “industrial” jamón is a different matter, and some fresh meat from supermarkets also leaves a lot to be desired”. 

Matthew agreed with Susan, saying that the cured meats are excellent, whereas fresh meat here is somewhat less, while Jerry B said: “Beef is generally of very poor quality (tough, sinewy), whereas pork and chicken are very good”.

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WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

KEY POINTS: Everything that changes in Spain in October 2022

From VAT cuts on heating, a new citizenship law, a change to Spain's Covid travel restrictions, the latest on UK licences, a round-up of festivals and plenty more, become a member to find out about all the important changes in Spain in October 2022.

KEY POINTS: Everything that changes in Spain in October 2022

Spain’s new sexual consent law comes into effect

October 7th brings the enforcement of a government bill toughening the country’s rape laws by requiring explicit consent for sex acts.

In essence, the law reforms Spain’s criminal code to define rape as sex without clear consent. Crucially, that removes the need for rape victims to prove that they resisted or were subject to violence or intimidation.

READ MORE: ‘Only yes means yes’: Spain edges closer to passing new sexual consent law

“Consent is recognised only when a person has freely demonstrated it through actions which, in the context of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the person’s will,” says the bill.

The proposed reform comes after of a notorious 2016 gang rape of an 18-year-old woman by five men at the bull-running festival in Pamplona, northern Spain.

VAT cut on gas bills

In yet another bid to ease the pain of the cost of living crisis, the Spanish government has introduced a new cost-cutting measure which aims to decrease the amount both residents and small businesses will pay on their gas bills this coming winter.

The VAT cut, which comes into force on October 1st, will also apply to other items used for heating such as pellets, briquets and wood as the price of said biofuel products has also increased considerably in the lead-up to the winter months. 

READ MORE: How much will Spain’s gas VAT cut save me per month?

Bottled butane gas has not been included in the new measure, but its price have been frozen at €19.55 per canister.

The reduction will mean monthly savings for an average user of between €5 and €19, depending on how much they use and the type of contract they have, according to consumer associations.

Overall, the Spanish government estimates the move will represent a save of €210 million for the Spanish population. 

Clocks change

It’s that time of year again. The evenings begin to get darker a little earlier – and the clocks go back. In 2022, the change will come in the early hours of Sunday, October 31st, when daylight saving time officially ends and winter time begins. To be specific, the change comes at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of the 31st of October.

READ MORE: Why Spain is still in the wrong time zone because of Hitler

Fourth Covid vaccines for the over-80s

October will also see the ramping up of the second Covid-19 booster roll-out for people over 80’s and those in care homes, a campaign which also includes the flu vaccine for those who wish to have it. 

As planned, the campaign has started in all Spanish regions on September 26th, except for in Andalusia, where it will begin on October 3rd.

The vaccines to be used will the new inoculations developed by Moderna and Pfizer against the Omicron BA.1 sub-variant, serums approved by the European Medicines Agency on September 1st. 

In Andalusia the Covid-flu vaccination campaign starts on October 3rd, in Aragón and Navarre on October 10th, in the Balearics on October 13th, in Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia and Castilla y León all on September 26th, whereas in the remaining regions the date for the double vaccination campaign is not yet known.

READ MORE: Spain starts fourth Covid vaccine rollout for over-80s

UK driving licences saga to continue as anger grows

As many of you will know by now, UK driving licence holders who have resided in Spain for more than six months have not been able to drive since May 1st. Five months later and there still isn’t a deal within close sight.

The UK Embassy in Spain is no longer speculating about when an exchange agreement could possibly be reached. The latest update posted on their Brits in Spain Facebook group on September 16th stated that: “We are genuinely making progress on resolving the outstanding points but, for reasons we’ve explained before, we cannot be definitive about the timescale.”

Another Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” has since been set up where members are threatening to stage a protest unless the matter is soon resolved. 

Will October bring a major change? Progress may well be made in terms of negotiations but the legislation has to be approved by several branches of the Spanish government before it actually comes into force, and keeping in mind the speed at which bureaucracy in Spain usually moves, it is unlikely to be streamlined in the next 30 days.

Domestic workers law

Following a ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU) and pressure from trade unions, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez adopted a reform is to introduce a bill aimed at ending the “discrimination” suffered by these workers.

READ MORE: The new rules for hiring a domestic worker in Spain

Under the changes, which come into force on October 1st, domestic workers are now entitled to claim unemployment benefits and cannot be dismissed without justification.

They will also be covered by healthcare “protection” and be able to access training to improve their “professional opportunities” and job conditions.

Grandchildrens’ citizenship law

A law that makes it easier for the children and grandchildren of Spaniards to gain citizenship will be debated in the Spanish parliament in October.

The bill, also known as the Historical Memory Law, proposes that the children and grandchildren of Spaniards (born in Spain) can gain Spanish citizenship without needing to live or be resident in Spain for any minimum period of time.

“Those born outside Spain to a father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, who would originally have been Spanish, and who, as a result of having suffered exile for political, ideological or belief reasons or sexual orientation and identity, have lost or renounced Spanish nationality, may opt for Spanish nationality, for the purposes of article 20 of the Civil Code,” the text of the proposed bill states.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Spain

Covid temperature checks for travellers end

The Covid-19 pandemic is still affecting international travel to Spain – especially if you’re from a non-EU country. 

On Tuesday September 20th, Spain scrapped the requirement from all international passengers arriving by air or sea in the country to complete and show a Covid health control form.

Now, on October 20th, Covid temperature controls and visual checks will be scrapped, sources from Spain’s state airport manager Aena told Spanish daily El Periódico.

READ MORE: FACT CHECK: Do you still need Covid documents to travel to Spain?

However, it is important to note that non-EU tourists such as Britons, Americans, Australians, Canadians or New Zealanders still have to show one of three documents to be able to enter Spain, following an extension of the rule until at least November 15th. These are: 

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate –  Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior of departure or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior of departure. 
  • A recovery certificate –  This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status.

Face masks are also still required on planes which are bound for Spain, but you don’t have to wear one at the airport.

Weather forecast

Spain has experienced some extreme weather this summer. With record temperatures, record rains and flooding in the Canary Islands, drought conditions, and flash floods in Murcia, Spanish weather has been changeable and unpredictable in September.

READ MORE: 640 flights cancelled as storm Hermine hits Spain’s Canary Islands

But what’s the forecast for October?

In terms of temperature, the average temperatures are set to be between 4-7 ° C lower than in September, which saw some of the summer heat linger into Autumn. Despite that, forecasts from Meteored suggest that the coming October will be warmer than usual, with temperatures up to 1 ° C above the average.

Expect some rain too as October is normally one of the rainiest in Spain except for a few regions of the country including the Canary Islands, the Balearics, the southern most points of Andalusia and the Upper Ebro.

Forecasts suggest that the rainfall will be primarily focused in the second half of the month, but the southeast and Balearic Islands will experience average rainfall throughout.

What’s on in Spain in October?

The turn in the weather doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on in Spain in October. Zaragoza celebrates one of its main fiestas, the Fiestas del Pilar.

Beteen the 4th and 12th of October, the fiestas of San Froilán de Lugo, one of the most popular celebrations in Galicia also takes place.

October is also a great time for foodies in Spain. Galicia hosts its Fiesta del Marisco (seafood festival) and at the end of the month is Castilla-La-Mancha’s Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafrán.

Elsewhere in Spain, October is an artsy month. In Alcalá de Henares, they celebrate Semana Cervantina – a weeklong celebration of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and there’s a nighttime performance of Don Juan in Alcalá.

Fuel prices still high but falling

For drivers, you’ll be pleased to know that petrol prices are steadily falling but still nowhere near the level before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The price of petrol has dropped by 20 percent to €1.70 per litre from the €2.15 price it reached in June (before the government discount) but still 12 percent more expensive than before the war began. Diesel prices have fallen by 15 percent to €1.81 on September 24th, before the government’s 20 percent discount is applied.

READ MORE: REMINDER: How drivers in Spain can get 20 euro cents off every litre of fuel

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