The Butchers of Buenos Aires

Photographer Eduardo Torres and sociologist Pablo Torres document neighborhood butcher shops in their book "Carniceros de oficio" (Butchers By Trade)

By Google Arts & Culture

Allie Lazar

Media Res Street by Allie Lazar and Don Julio

Butchers By Trade

“This book expresses its respect for the butchers’ craft, for the artisanal work, and for the animal: the cow. Three elements that cannot be split from the eating habits of the majority of Argentina’s inhabitants. This is a tribute to those men and women who dedicate their lives to butchery.” 

Roberto meat hook by Eduardo Torres, Pablo Torres, and Allie Lazar

Fundamental Part of Daily Life

“In Argentina, beef can be considered as an interesting key when reading our history. The entry of cattle into our country, more than five hundred years ago, transformed and structured political, economic, social and cultural relations. That is why the butchers have established themselves as fundamental historical subjects in the construction of our daily life.”

Butcher truck by Don Julio and Allie Lazar

Change of a Generation

“Since the end of the last century, certain changes in the way meat is sold have affected neighborhood butcher shops in various ways. Today we are also witnessing a change of generation: many old butchers, naturally, are abandoning the trade and are giving way to new ones. With his estrangement, a way of doing the job disappears. In this passage, some have succeeded in transmitting their knowledge to their children, thus ensuring the continuity of the family business and preserving that spirit.”

Roberto Calidad by Eduardo Torres, Pablo Torres, and Allie Lazar

A True Butcher Knows

“A true butcher knows his customers: he knows what time they will come, what and how much they will order, how they like to have their order prepared, and what they like to chat about.”

Deposte by Eduardo Torres and Pablo Torres

Butchering the Half Cow

“The reader will witness an encounter, as naturalized as it is strange, between the butcher and the half-beef. It is about the breaking down of the half cow. It is perhaps the most meticulous task and in which the professional shows all his knowledge.”

Deposte by Eduardo Torres and Pablo Torres

The Man Respectful of the Animal

“Alone, with each other. The man, respectful of the animal in front of him, aware that it is neither more nor less than his sustenance, should follow the streaks of fat and the different tissues that separate the different muscles with the knife. Only then, through the cuts, the meat will be meat for the consumer.”

Alfonso and Gerardo Tomsin by Eduardo Torres and Pablo Torres

Alfonso and Gerardo Tomsin, Carnicería Ambiórix

Alfonso Tomsin was born in Belgium, and came to Argentina when he was 18 years old, just after the World War II. His father, Francisco, was a butcher, and decided to escape Europe for fear that the Korean War would be the start of World War III. Alfonso was a dental mechanic, but couldn't practice in Argentina, so he began working in his father’s butcher shop. Decades later, Alfonso’s son Gerardo has taken over the family business, at Ambiórix, maintaining tradition while also finding ways to innovate. 

Lito's Butcher Shop by Eduardo Torres, Pablo Torres, and Allie Lazar

Roberto Ángel Moretti, Carnicería Lito

"When his father was able to open his own butcher shop, Lito was 19 years old and his son was one month old. He was married, didn’t have a job, and was grossed out by touching meat. But given his circumstances, he asked his dad to teach him the trade.” 50 years later and Lito loves his job, and his clients know that his ribs and flank steak never fail.

Mirta Ofelia by Eduardo Torres and Pablo Torres

Mirta Ofelia "Pili" Peterson, Carnicería Cristian

It wasn’t in Pili’s plans to be a butcher. She is one of the few women in a male-dominated industry. She took up the craft when her husband became ill and was a natural. Her son is also a butcher, at a shop with his name in the Chacarita neighborhood where they work together. 

Guillermo Portait by Eduardo Torres, Pablo Torres, and Allie Lazar

Juan Manuel Braga, Carnicería Guillermo

In the 1940s, Guillermo Braga decided to buy a butcher shop on the corner of Cervantes and Emilio Mitre. He gave his son an ultimatum: you either work or study. Juan Manuel decided to work, delivering the orders from the butcher shop on his bike. And has shown an intense passion for the craft ever since.

AMICS by Eduardo Torres, Pablo Torres, and Allie Lazar

Ariel Argomaniz and Mariano Cafarelli, Carnicería AMICS

“Mariano and Ariel belong to a new generation that sets out to revive the values ​​of the traditional butcher shop. They do it by recovering old school practices: listening, understanding, advising, and generating a bond with the client. They organize workshops with live butcher demonstrations in different restaurants, in which they have managed to establish close relationships with cooks who share the same passions and concerns.”

Roberto by Eduardo Torres, Pablo Torres, and Allie Lazar

Roberto Antonio Neira, Carnicería Roberto

“Roberto Antonio Neira is 80 years old, 60 years working as a butcher. Although he has a successor and is at the age of retirement, every day he wakes up at five in the morning to practice his trade. A trade that has dictated how his life has been, what his life is, a craft in which he practices with love, convinced that his clientele is his family and that the meat tenderizes due to the affection in which he works it.”

Horacio Heit by Eduardo Torres and Pablo Torres

Horacio Marcelo Heit, Carnicería La Granjita de Honduras

Horacio Marcelo Heit was born in 1955, in Crespo, a small town in the Entre Ríos province, which was inhabited by mostly German immigrants. He spoke a mixture of Spanish and German. He spent his childhood in the countryside, slaughtering cows and pigs. When he was 19 years old he moved to Buenos Aires and set up a butcher shop in Palermo. In the beginning, he wasn’t able to butcher by himself, but he kept observing and eventually mastered the craft. He says the neighborhood has changed over the years, once everyone in Palermo knew one another, but not anymore. Today, his clients have different consumption habits. He sells less meat and has to do the work people no longer do at home, like breaking down chickens and breading milanesas. 

Credits: Story

From the book Carniceros de Oficio by Eduardo Torres and Pablo Torres

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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