Accompanying the expansion of modern beef production in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were technologies and methods that proponents assumed were applicable to all ecosystems. Successes in Europe, the United States, and Argentina convinced ranchers, investors, and animal scientists that these could be applied in the tropical Americas with ease. This assumption contributed to a wave of foreign ranching investment in semi-tropical Mato Grosso, Brazil, beginning in the early twentieth century. However, such a view failed to consider the specific characteristics of such environments and led to difficulties for several ventures and a re-evaluation of the relationship between ecosystems and the type of ranching appropriate to them. Ultimately, local Brazilian practice and experimentation proved more successful in tropical and semi-tropical Brazil, forcing foreign ranching concerns to adapt their techniques. Following the logic of earlier decades, more recently cattle-raising practices developed in Mato Grosso and similar regions have been applied in the tropical Amazon, resulting in widespread ecological devastation. The uneven experiences of foreign entrepreneurs in Mato Grosso offer valuable lessons for understanding the application of modernization technologies to diverse ecosystems; such knowledge can lead to a more sustainable approach to meat production.