beef was part of the basic diet in several cities in colonial hispanic america. since the creation of the first population centers, its supply was based on the estanco, a monopoly supply system aimed at ensuring the efficient delivery of food to the city. in this paper we try to show that from its very beginning the estanco did not work in an efficient manner. rather it had several problems, which led to, at first in a de facto manner and from the middle of the mid-eighteenth century formally, to a free market system. the meat market was part of a larger economic structure that undoubtedly both influenced and was influenced by it. for this reason we believe it is important to address, in this case at the institutional level, the characteristics of this market in a specific historical scenario. the sources drawn on are essentially town records referring to animal slaughter, as well agn documents.