Road Trip, Beef & Charcoal.

On one side its Asunción and the far side its the Chaco
On one side its Asunción and the far side its the Chaco

The Chaco, Paraguay

Geographical info

The Chaco it’s not your everyday visit.

The Chaco or Region Occidental (Western Region) is a semi-arid region in Paraguay, the Chaco region typically averages no more than 50 cm of rainfall a year. The rains tend to be irregular and quickly turn into the brick red mud synonymous with all the dirt roads and pick-up trucks here, as the Chaco is flat only 310 meters above sea level, there’s no runoff, so excess rainwater just pools around and evaporates. The Chaco is sparsely populated, making up for more than 60% of Paraguay's land mass area, but with less than 3% of its population, this makes the Chaco one of the least populated areas of South America.

The surrounding Grand Chaco area which spreads into Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil has a land areal of 1,100,000 km² or twice the size of France, of this the Paraguayan contribution is about the size of Great Brittan. WOW. Many of those living in the region are indigenous. It Chaco is spread over the departments of Boquerón, Alto Paraguay and the Department of Presidente Hayes.

The vegetation of the Chaco varies from the east to the west, reflecting the changing nature of the soil. Eastern Chaco is noted for its more sparsely timbered landscape of trees and shrubs.

To the west, it’s arid with spiny, thorny shrubs and low trees adapted to more arid conditions.

Surviving in these conditions is the quebracho trees “literally translated to Break axe” a dense hardwood of economical resource rich in tannin and lumbar, tannin from lumbar here is the same tannin that colours rivers, streams, and lakes black in other heavily forested areas. More importantly now-days is its use in the charcoal industry with quebracho has become the quality yardstick for the worlds charcoal industry.

The ground is all fine brick red dust/dirt, what Australians call bulldust, It coats everything with an orange dust, and when wet it turns into red mud, a dirty muddy pick up is a status symbol otherwise you’re just a city slicker passing through.

Turn 50 meters off the highway & the asphalt turns to dirt road

The Road Trip, getting there.

The drive through Asunción’s suburbs leads directly to the Puente Remanso Bridge, on the other side of the Paraguay river is the Chaco. We drove about 7 hours and made it about two thirds up to the Bolivian border on highway 9. Leaving Asunción highway 9 starts off as a multi laned pot holed asphalt city street choking in all manners of commuters and transport, as the traffic thins out the highway is lined every 20 meters or so with lean to shops selling cheap Argentinian petrol and bananas. Further on up the road the hawkers are selling bags of coal. There’s no doubt that the highway is an economical lifeline to the big businesses north in the Chaco and Bolivia, this is quite clear with the number of heavy vehicles and transport on the road. The highway is not complete all the way, but the good parts are good & when it’s finished it will even be better. There are smaller towns and cities dotted along the route, as well, as many service stations some of which are enormous and are a combination service station-supermarket. There’s no Tesla charging stations here, I didn’t see an electric car anywhere in Paraguay, probably already deemed as an upcoming export market for Europe, somewhere to dump all its combustion cars on as we become more volt orientated. There are traditional pump and eating places as well, where you can grab some empanadas and eat them from the plastic set tables. If you don’t like empanadas stay home. For a first time visitor there’s lots to look at along the way, for a seasoned highway 9 commuter it’s a distance one has to make.

Vehicle of choice, the pick up truck, this is not the preferred Hi-lux but at least with the complimenting Chaco mud, our ride was embarrassingly clean.


There are some 25,000 German-speaking Mennonites living in the Paraguayan Chaco region. These settlers founded several important regional towns, such as Hohenau, Filadelfia, Neuland, Obligado, and Nueva Germania.

The members of the amenno Colony moved to Paraguay from Canada when compulsory education in English was implemented in 1917. Some of the more conservative Mennonites saw this as a threat to the religious basis of their community. In 1927, 1743 pioneers immigrated from Canada to Paraguay and have since turned the arid Chaco into fertile farmland, they created the first Mennonite colony in the region.

In the beginning, the pioneers in the Chaco had to overcome many adversities. Many became sick and died due to the lack of medical care some families returned to Canada.

In 1930, another wave of Russian Mennonites fled their homeland for the Chaco.

They were fleeing Stalin’s man-made starvation tactics in the Ukraine, even more came in 1947 after the end of the second world war.

Today the Mennonites are the pillars of these communities that they have built, successful businessmen and influential farmers and graziers. Some of the smaller towns and cities we passed through had huge farm machinery showrooms, selling state of the art equipment, if there is no market they wouldn’t be here.

Wide open spaces cleared by the Mennonites

Paraguyan Beef

Ranches are sprouting up all through the Chaco, beef and cattle is big business here in Paraguay as well, coming in the top ten beef exporting countries, top 15 beef producing countries, this of course depends on where on the internet one seeks facts.

Most of Paraguay’s export goes to Chile, Brazil also is a big importer from its neighbour, one wonders why? Don't they have enough beef in Brazil.

The meat “beef” department in the supermarkets are interesting, there is a wide selection of different brands for each cut, piccaña is defiantly the local pick, other favourites, well represented are tri-tip an American cut “tail of rump” and flat ribs. all the self service beef is sola as whole joints, if you want it portioned you have to go to the service butcher.

Our standards or favourites, entrecote, fillet, strip loin although present, arn't as prominent, they’re more expensive and probably always gone to the landowner or to export.

Notably also in the supermarkets is the large range of domestic dairy products, all of which we tried were great quality. a large range of lactose free milk alternatives were also available, alas no vegetarian options on the menu's.

There are even beef shops, a one company shop that sells only their own brand plus all the paraphernalia allowing you to partake in the national pastime of BBQ & grilling.

It’s a class thing if you’re at the bottom of the pecking order you can forget the beef store it’s still empanadas.

We visited a large Mennonite owned state of the art slaughterhouse, it was extremely impressive, spotlessly clean, well-organised, effective production flow and high-quality standard with a slaughter capacity of 1200 head a day. Most of the cattle here are grass fed although there are many feed lots and wagyu production as well.

The end product at Ogaucho Churrascaria in Asunción featuring only beef from FrigoChorti.

Brangus Beef


Even here the weather and conditions dictate thus the brangus strain of bovine is the local hero. The brangus is an American hybrid cross, bred from Angus and Brahman stock. The official brangus cross is 5/8 Angus and 3/8 Brahman. The original American cross was bred during the 1930’s in Louisiana.

The Australian rangus with no characteristic differences from its American counterpart was developed separately during the 1950’s.

The goal was to breed in some brahman hardship traits with the better meat qualities of the Black Angus. Thus allowing the brangus, the possibility to adapt to the hot and humid conditions in the American south or the Australian hinterland.

Brangus have since become widespread throughout The USA and Canada, South Africa, and Australia as well as Mexico and all South American beef producing countries.

Here in the Chaco, brangus is the breed of choice suited to the terrain, water table, weather, and feed this choice will enable Paraguay to vastly increase its beef production capabilities over the next decade. Here the cattle graze on natural fields and high-quality pasture, the free-range lifestyle contributes to beef of lower cholesterol and fatty content. According to the locals the salt rich pasture and water also contribute to the tastiness of the finished product. We ate beef every day, predominantly well done not through our own choice, because the meat isn’t rested or temp controlled it was often dry and tight.

A picture of my heard of Brangus, rustled from the internet

Jealous Devil

The charcoal kilns in progress at Jealous Devil.

We came to visit the Jealous Devil charcoal kilns and packaging plant a few hours further up the road. It's heavy hard work. The brick kilns are packed by hand, the and bricked over lit and starved of oxygen during the burning process.

Chunxs XL lump charcoal,

Large and small chunks sorted 50/50 and filtered, “guaranteed no more than 1% charcoal dust”

Carbonised at 400° C. for a 7 day burn in brick kilns at Jealous Devil plant in the northern Chaco.

Cooled in the kiln for 7 days, sorted and packaged at the plant. Shipped on pallets.

Sack Sizes

4,5Kg, 80 units per pallet

9kg, 45 units per pallet, 9kg sack with carry strap.

15.9kg, 25 units per pallet

This charcoal is a white ash quebracho charcoal with no additives giving it a long and hot burn with no smoke, sparks, pops or flare ups with a clean flavour profile & minimal ash

Briquette Pillows, XL

Larger pillows

Carbonised at 400° C. 7 day burn in brick kilns at Jealous Devil plant in the northern Chaco.

Cooled in the kiln for 7 days, sorted and packaged at the plant. Shipped on pallets.

Loosely compressed and reformed with 97% quebracho finds & 3% yucca starch enabling for a quick and even ignition. This charcoal has no additional additives giving it a long and hot burn with no smoke, sparks, pops or flare ups, with a clean flavour profile & minimal ash.

Boxed. 4,5Kg, 112 stackable boxes, per pallet.

Preparing the kiln, hand stacked quebracho.
The first glimpse of the finished lump charcoal.


Binchotan charcoal,

Jealous devil follows traditional Japanese charcoal carbonisation techniques, our Binchotan is carbonised at 1200°C in specialised charcoal kilns for 4 days, whereupon its extracted from the kilns and suffocated and allowed to cool another 7 days in oxygen free drums, this unique process gives it a distinctive rock hard metallic feel and whitened surface.

This charcoal is extinguishable with water and can be relit without loss of mass or performance. Binchotan has a long even burn and is smokeless enabling control over the food profile flavours.

This charcoal is well suited to the Japanese hibachi and konro tabletop grills.

Boxed in 9,2Kg stackable boxes, pallet.

Hopefully in the not to near future the drop in bed and breakfast, charcoal burner experience center will be full-filled, luring travellers of Highway 9 and making The Jealous Devil plant an interesting destination in itself. theres nothing wrong with ambition.

The famed Binchotan with its light gray dusting and if you could hear it it's hollow metalic ring.