The illegal trafficking of cattle, across country borders, has spread north from the natural reserves of Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, to enter the food supply chain in Mexico and even the United States.

This trade has resulted in the deforestation of thousands of hectares and numerous acts of violence against Indigenous communities. Yet little is done to slow this growing economy which both satisfied the growing global demand for beef and helps to mask other criminal activities held in parallel, including cocaine trafficking and money laundering.

InSight Crime has followed step-by-step how these cattle are smuggled into Mexico, bringing in millions of dollars along the way.

Investigation Chapters

How Black Market Ear Tags Help Flow of Contraband Cattle

Cattle from Mexico and the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua help feed the domestic beef markets of each of these countries. The processed byproducts of some of those animals are also exported abroad to serve international markets, such as the United States. But underneath it all, there is a thriving black market…