Argentina's vast plains are bigger than Texas, and for more than a century, great herds of cattle roamed and ate to their hearts' content. That helped build up Argentina's image as the producer of lean and natural grass-fed beef.

But ever so quietly, Argentina is increasingly fattening its herd in American-style feedlots. Promoters say it's efficient, but some Argentines wonder if quality isn't being lost for the sake of quantity.

Each day, 12,000 animals from all over cattle country arrive at the Liniers cattle market on the south side of Buenos Aires.

Grizzled men on horseback herd them into pens. The bell then rings, announcing the start of yet another day of auctions. The animals are butchered immediately after sale, resulting in what Argentines call the best beef in the world.

Like this proud country, the century-old Liniers market is all history and tradition.

Tradition, though, is dramatically changing. Cattle that once grew fat on Argentina's great grass expanse are now heading to pens.

The future of Argentine cattle production in on display at the Santa Maria feedlot, south of Buenos Aires. A machine mixes corn pellets — high-protein, high-energy feed that is then delivered to troughs across 40 corrals, each one holding 200 animals.

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