Despite being locked out of 56% of the world's markets due to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), including Korea and Japan, Brazil still accounts for 32% of the world's beef exports, and has increased its beef exports fivefold since 2000.

Fernando Galletti de Queiroz, CEO of Minerva SA, Brazil's third-largest beef processor, says, “Unlike Australia or New Zealand, Brazil is not protected by a coastline, and viruses do not respect a land border.”

But Brazil is working to improve the sanitary status of its neighbors in an attempt to eradicate FMD at the source, he says, a tall order as 10 countries share a border with Brazil. Brazil is donating vaccine, technology and expertise to clear South America of FMD within 10 years.

In order to “open up new and lucrative markets to Brazil,” de Queiroz says road-building is also underway to connect Brazil to Pacific ports. All Brazilian beef currently leaves via Atlantic ports, which makes shipping to Asia uncompetitive, he says.

Brazil has 394 million hectares of farmland (a hectare equals 2.47 acres) available for beef production and has no need to cut another tree. Currently only 68 million hectares are being used to produce beef cattle.

Only 1.3% of Brazilian cattle are fattened in feedlots, and Brazil is adopting more intensive grazing systems, fueled by the endless water supply. Crossbreeding is also being encouraged, especially between the predominant Nelore breed and Angus and Simmental cattle.

“We have barely scratched the surface of what is possible in terms of beef production,” de Queiroz says.