Monday, August 31, 2009

In the USA we eat French Fries and Baby Beef - In France, they just eat "Fries" and Cow Beef

Excerpt of a great archived article from the Stockman Grassfarmer and Alan Nation.  If you don't have a subscription to this unique publication, you should put it on your to do list to subscribe - whether you are a meat producer, or a consumer, it's a pleasure to read and will help you understand just what is a healthy pleasure to eat.  Click the blog title link for the complete article.

The French believe beef from older cows is Choice grade

by Allan Nation

"When you think of French food what do you think of? Over fattened geese? Snails? Heavy sauces? Coq au vin?  Paris native, Jerome Chateau, said that a far more typical French meal would be steak and fries. (They aren't called French fries in France.) "

"He said the French are by far and away the biggest beef consumers in Europe and treasure a tender, flavorful, grilled steak. The only major difference between French beef eating tradition and North America is that the French tend to eat their grilled steaks rarer and are more lavish with the use of salt and pepper."

"Chateau said the wide-spread American belief that meat from older animals has to be tough strikes most Frenchmen as incredibly naive. In fact, given the choice - as they are - the extremely picky French actually prefer their beef to be from older animals."

"Only 11 percent of France's internal beef consumption comes from animals less than two years of age and only two percent is from young males (mostly as dairy veal).  Eighty seven percent of internally consumed beef is grass finished and 75 percent of French beef consumption is from culled cows - of both beef and dairy breeds.

"He said there were dozens of breeds of cattle in France. Each is bred to work in the highly varying climatic regions of the country. These adapted cattle traditionally take that region's name as the breed's name. For example, Charolais, Tarentaise, Normande (bull pictured above ;jlw), and Simmental."

"He said he believed the primary cause of beef toughness was stress on the animal. He said the French are very cognizant of this fact and genetically select for docile and quiet animals."

French dairy cows that are to be sold for beef are allowed to graze and fatten for at least 90 days after being dried off. He said a typical practice was to dry the cows off in the winter and sell them as beef the following summer after they had fattened on the lush spring grass.

"At the abattoir French cattle are individually penned and never mixed with strange cattle. Free choice water is available to them at all times including during road transport.  Many abattoirs play Classical music in their holding areas to calm the cattle handlers and possibly the cattle."

"He said the oldest labeled beef brand is the Normande breed label. This highly successful beef label is 95 percent from culled dairy cows. He said the average age of the cows used for the premium priced beef was six years. The Normande beef label requires:

1. The cattle have to have been on one farm for at least four months before slaughter.
2. The cattle must spend at least eight months of the year on pasture.
3. The cattle must not spend over four hours on the truck to the abattoir.
4. The cattle must not stand for over 24 hours at the abattoir before slaughter.
5. The cattle are to be kept in individual stalls with free-choice water.
6. The cattle must be handled with a minimum of disruption.
7. The beef must be aged for seven days as a carcass or for 12 days in plastic wrap as individual pieces."