Around the end of last week, I was starting to wonder if beef was even consumed in France. I had seen cattle in the pastures along the roads, but I had yet to see a slice of red meat on the table in front of me. I was starting to miss my favorite animal, in both the live and edible version.
Lucky for me and you...I found out that cows do exist for a reason in France and people actually do eat beef (just not my family) and that farms in France still do remind me of home. For starters, a farm still smells like a farm...as all of the city folks complained about the smell, I loved the scent of hard work and dedication. Second, a cow still looks like a cow...it still moos and eats grain and has calves. The farmers still care about their product and work hard to raise a quality piece of meat (viande in French) for their consumers. They still have the small farms that many of us are able to call home and they pass those farms from generation to generation. A farm is a farm whether is is Minnesota, France or China...the values never change and that was one of the best lessons I have learned on this trip so far.
But, let me be clear there are major differences in our production practices.
- There are no major feedlots in France. Most steers and heifers get sold to Italy or Spain to be fed out.
- There are many Appelations of Origins (AOC) dealing with beef breeds. These AOCs guarentee the region, breed, handling and quality of beef from specific areas. For example, there is an AOC Maine Anjou.
- There is no real market for market heifers in France. For example, the Maine Anjou AOC required all females to have at least one calf before they could qualify.
- Cattle are not given hormones...ever.
- Producers are given their prices on visual appraisal before the cattle leave the farms. Little emphasis is put on our normal guidelines, such as marbling, size, condition and it is more on what the grader thinks that day.
My list could go on and on and on but instead, let me share with you some pictures from the birth place of the Maine Anjou, which happen to be one of my favorite breeds! I was pretty excited about this visit, as I had made an assumption about their origin when I discoverent the name of Angers' region is Anjou and that a nearby river is named the Maine. It turns out it wasn't just a coincedence and I was able to visit the farm where the first Maine Anjou (also known as Rouge des Près) was bred!