COWS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!

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I had absolutely no intention of writing a blog post today! I had nothing in mind to write about (actually that’s not entirely true, I always have lots to write about) and just thought, “First weekend of the children holidays, I’m going to take a break.” At least that was the plan; that was until we went to an open-afternoon yesterday at a beef-farm nearby for which I had seen the signs on my journey to and from school all week;

PORTES OUVERTES – SAMEDI 13 FEVRIER 2016 14H-18H
Venez découvrir nos animaux, notre élevage, notre laboratoire de découpe.                                  (come and discover our animals, our breeding, our butchery)

That was a bit like a red rag to a bull (excuse the pun); I cannot escape my roots and my upbringing and although I had absolutely no idea what to expect I thought it would be fun to go and have a look around. The younger girls were at a birthday party but Jack, Roddy and I went along after lunch; it was actually really interesting and of course I had my camera with me and so I took a few photos, and then after that I thought I simply had to tell you all about it!

Arriving at the farm the first thing we saw was the sheepdog. He was watching everyone come and go; he lay there virtually motionless the whole time, observing everything quietly; waiting for the next command, such intelligence in those eyes.

This is a farm where they only raise Limousin cattle, a French breed that originates from the Limousin region, about three hours inland from us. The farm has 85 breeding cows from which they derive the stock they raise and sell as beef; this means at any one time there are several hundred head of cattle on the farm. Their traditional breeding methods meet exceedingly high standards and the farm has an incredible reputation for the well-being of their animals, its respect for the environment, and the transparency and traceability of its stock.

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The first Limousins arrived at the farm in 1984. This race was chosen for its ease of breeding and its excellent quality meat. In 2000, due to high demand from the consumers for local and quality products, the family set up the direct sale of beef from the farm, and it has become highly successful amongst a small but very knowledgeable local clientele. To answer the increasing demand a butchery was created in 2002, which meant the beef could be prepared on site; this offers customers further guarantees about the meat they are buying. This is beef at its very best, naturally raised as nature intended, with no antibiotics, no hormones and no GMO feed.

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We wandered through the open barns where at this time of year the cattle are of course inside.  Within another few weeks they will be out in open pasture for the next eight months of the year, and they will enjoy those amazing views and the benefits of fresh air from a maritime location right on the edge of the Marais de Brouage. The natural meadows are immensely rich in minerals from the salt marshes. On the higher land the farm grows its own crops and makes its own lucerne hay and sileage for the winter feed. Lucerne, known more commonly as alfalfa in the USA, produces the highest quality, nutrient rich hay possible. This is augmented during the winter months with a ‘cake’ which is rich in omega 3; it’s made from a mixture of maize, beetroot and the pulp from the lucerne.

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As we reached the end of the long barn building we were offered hot mulled wine,  and Jack was given afternoon goûter. I was pleased to see so many other people had taken the time to visit; it was an excellent way to introduce a wonderful product to those who wished to know more, a chance for the customer to see exactly where their beef comes from, how the cattle are kept, with time to ask questions, read about breeding and methods, and appreciate farming as it should be. All of the animals are guaranteed to have been born and raised naturally on the farm as the owners do not import any cattle and are only allowed sell their own meat.

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The wind was absolutely howling with gusts of 100 kph and it was hard to walk in a straight line between the farmyard and the farmhouse which also houses the thoroughly modern butchery, this is where the meat is cut and then hung to age in the cold room. Inside we were shown around by the farmer’s wife, an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable lady. She was immensely proud of the business they have created and quite rightly so; everything was spotlessly clean and hygienic. Such is the popularity of their beef, one cannot find their meat anywhere else and you have to buy it in situ! Furthermore, orders have to be placed two months in advance! Collection times are firmly set; Friday evenings between 6 and 8pm and Saturday mornings.

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We have placed our order, we shall make sure there is plenty of space in the freezer, and we shall be returning mid-April. The farmer’s wife suggested we collect it on the Friday evening, so we could enjoy a glass of wine at the same time she added with a wink. How very civilized, we thought.

When we got home I searched through my old photos from walks last year and found some of the cattle when they were out in the fields during the warmer months, just so you can see. This is farming at it’s best.

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WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY  X

38 thoughts on “COWS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!

  • Sounds very interesting. Is the meat terribly expensive or just a bit more than the norm? The beef we buy locally from a supplier about 30minutes from here is much better than the supermarket but hasn’t been hung for nearly as long as it would be in the UK – do you know how long they hang their meat for I wonder.

    Hope you have a happy day too!

    Penny

    • Hi Penny, It is 13 euro/kg for a mixed box of meat, either 5kg, 7.5kg, 10kg or 15kg. It is worth every penny I feel to know exactly where it is coming from and to know for sure exactly what has been fed to the animals. Their meat is hung for between 10 and 15 days, so no, not as long as in the UK but longer than many French, especially supermarkets who hang for as little as 5 days. Hope you had a lovely day xxx

  • Sounds fascinating. I believe very strongly in buying local and supporting local farmers. When I saw your title, I thought you had bought a cow!
    Happy Valentines Day!

    • Hi Nadia, no room for a cow, thank goodness otherwise the children would want one!!! I too believe it is so important to support the local farmers and I also think it is vital to know where our meat comes from. Hope you had a lovely day, Susan x

    • Hi, it is a lovely looking breed, I agree, I love seeing them in the fields in the summer and really enjoyed watching them yesterday, they were such happy cows, it was really encouraging to see the farm being so well supported and their efforts being rewarded. Susan x

  • I’m curious too what the average price is. Here with a neighbor, we pay roughly 9 euros for a mix of meat. I find that a great deal!

    • Hi Julia, I think you have a fabulous deal. This is 13 euros/kg with a minimum order of 5kg. And that price is for a mixed box of different cuts. A little more expensive than yours, but definitely worth paying for knowing where it has come from. Lucky you having such great beef from your neighbour. Hope you had better weather today, it was actually nice here all day and no wind at all! Susan x

  • Really enjoyed this blog even though I’m a veggie it’s nice to see animals being well looked after. Like you I have been racking my brains with what to blog about. We are over in France for a few days but the weather is so rainy and dull we’re not quite sure what to do with ourselves.

    • Thank you, the weather has certainly been rather changeable, although we had a gorgeous day today and all the wind has disappeared.We eat very little red meat in our family, but when we do I really think it is so important to know exactly where it comes from and I really enjoyed seeing these cows yesterday, they were all such happy content cows, which has to be so important. Susan x

  • Im a new subscriber and love your blog. Very much enjoyed your post and can only wish that the US returns to this method of responsible farming. I wish I could place an order too! How much did you order? What cuts? Do you need a separate freezer to store? I look forward to future posts.

    • Hi Christie, firstly so glad to have you following along, and secondly thank you for taking the time to comment, always much appreciated. We were delighted to be able to see exactly where our meat was coming from, we are not huge meat eaters and therefore only ordered 7.5kg, so plenty of room in our big chest freezer. The box will contain a mixture of cuts, stewing steak, braising steak, rump steak, filet steak, minced meat (ground beef) and a couple of roast joints. I shall look forward to collecting it in a couple of months! Hope you have had a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • This is fantastic. We, in the States, are finding it very difficult to find local farmers with solid farming practices. It’s all about the large CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) these days. We live in northeast Wisconsin, an area known for their dairy farms. Kudos to you for making a purchase. I am envious! Happy V Day to you and yours.

    • Hi Audrey, sadly it is becoming rarer everywhere, although in France and in the UK there is a return to smaller farms doing this sort of thing, turning to organic natural methods. I grew up on a mixed farm, beef, sheep and arable and it was run just like this one I wrote about, our cows were happy cows and the calves reared naturally by their mothers and likewise our sheep. It was a pleasure to support this farm and all their hard work. Hope you have had a lovely Valentine’s Day. Susan x

  • Hello Susan. This was really interesting. Here on the West Coast there is a very strong movement for FARM TO TABLE. I have just read a really scary article about hogs being raised in the US and shipped to China for slaughter and processing and sent back to the US. for consumption. The guide lines for the quality of the meat are rather suspect. It really is up to the consumer to check the provenance of all food.

    As with all articles of this nature…there is no verification….but food for thought.

    Ali

    • Hi Ali, that is one of the scariest things I have heard in a long time, why would anyone ship a live animal all the way from the USA to China and then back again, what a dreadful state for farming to have got into. I wonder aside from cost, what could possibly be the benefit? It makes it even more important to be able to know the provenance of everything we eat. Another reason to buy local and support our local growers and farmers. Susan x

  • Oh my, how topical. I am making beef stew for dinner tonight. 🙂

    I assume that will be a glass of red offered when you pick up your order? Lucky you to have such a clean and healthy source of beef. As Audrey mentions above, it is virtually impossible to source meat locally in most of the US and even more rare to find a rancher anywhere in the country meeting the standards of your local beef producer. Thanks for turning your day out into a post.

    • Hi Mary, I will let you know about the wine, but yes I would assume red too and I am not at all averse to a nice glass of red wine!!! I think a lot of farming methods have become seriously worrying. It was so fabulous to visit this farm yesterday and to see it so well supported and to see that “real” farming can still be sustainable. Hope your beef stew was delicious! Susan x

  • I, too, wondered if you’d added a cow to your home menagerie. 🙂
    Like others, I look for local meat and produce, either from farmers markets or through a CSA. The alternatives and chemicals are not good.
    And as Ali points out, shipping animals from the US to China for processing and then back again is scary. Chickens are also going to be subject to that, I understand.

    • Hi Emm, no cow, definitely no cows here! I too believe it is vital to support local farmers and growers, not just for their benefit but also for our own, as you say the alternatives with their chemicals and added ingredients are, in my opinion, simply not an option. As for the shipping of animals to China for slaughter and processing, I find that truly terrifying, where will it all stop? I hope you had a good weekend, Susan x

  • Loved this post. How nice that you can buy great beef locally right on the farm.
    That is not true in many places.
    That beautiful dog was a nice addition.
    Happy Valentines Day!
    Pam

    • Hi Pam, it was indeed really nice to be able to look around the farm, meet the owners, see such happy, well cared for and content animals and also to see so much support from other locals. I shall really look forward to collecting our meat in April. Hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day. Susan x

  • Thank you for this post. What you have described is much like my grandparents raised their livestock and much like my mother purchased the beef for our family from a nearby farmer. I used to love “helping” Grandpa and Grandma milk the cows, herd the cattle to the next grazing meadow, and feed the chickens and pigs, and I still remember meeting some of the breeding cows, and seeing the calmly grazing cattle, at the farm where my mother bought our beef. Those days are long past, but we are grateful to be able to, and do, purchase beef from a local organic farm through our food coop and freshly-caught wild salmon from local Native Americans at the farmer’s market. If the only source of meat, chicken or fish were a supermarket, I would become a vegetarian.

    • Hi Leslie, your childhood sounds as if it was similar to mine, only I lived on my parents farm and this is exactly how we raised our livestock, no pigs, but beef and sheep and two house cows for milk. They were happy animals. I am in total agreement with you, I would certainly be vegetarian if I could only purchase from a supermarket. We eat very little meat for this very reason and we never eat pork because I hate the way pigs are raised and I have not found a local producer. We only eat fish if either Roddy catches it or we buy it at our local fish stand at the market where we chat to the girls and know where and when it was caught, it is all local and if it’s rough the boats don’t go out. The comments from other readers have been fascinating, I am still trying to understand why cattle would be shipped from the USA to China for slaughter and processing and then back to the USA, it is very scary. Have a wonderful week, Susan x

      • Your childhood sounds wonderful. As for the scheme to ship U.S. hogs to China for slaughtering and processing, then back to the U.S. for consumption, I imagine that it is based upon someone’s calculation that this scheme would be cheaper (hard to imagine the circumstances that would make it so) and a way to avoid US requirements regarding slaughtering, processing and labelling. Certainly if U.S. consumers knew that this was occurring, they would not buy the product.

  • This is wonderful! Here in Aude, there’s a program called “De la Ferme en Ferme.” On certain weekends, the farms along a circuit open their doors. Some serve meals (usually you need to reserve ahead). The circuits vary and are printed on little brochures given out at the market and in stores. We’ve seen ducks and geese, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, cows, bulls, chickens, fish, bees…..you name it. You can buy the farm’s products on site. We bought hard sausage at one last summer and didn’t make it to the car before it was gone, entailing a walk back to buy more for home! The other plus is that the circuits made us explore corners of the countryside where we never would have gone. Gorgeous valleys, deep forests, winding hills, picturesque villages, all tucked well off the beaten path.

    • What a wonderful way for the farmers to make themselves known to the public and a great way to see so many places and visit places you would otherwise never go. I love seeing where our food comes from and I think it is so important to buy locally and support for around us. What a great country we live in 🙂

  • This takes me back to my childhood when neighbors had their cows grazing in open fields. Our family grew vegetables and we kids picked apples and berries. No freezer, but canned everything to feed us through the winter. I am now lact-ovo vegetarian,
    and buy everything organic that I can find/afford.
    The cattle and milk industry has a long way to go in how their animals are raised and processed and in gaining consumers’ trust. The hormones and antibiotics used in these industries scare me. I honestly think raising cattle as your friend does would result in cheaper cost.
    Please let your friends know I have high admiration for their farming philosophy.

    • Hi Judi, thank you so much for taking the time to comment, it is always appreciated and it seems we all believe in the same things. As Leslie commented and I totally agree with her, if I did not know where my meat/chicken was coming from I would be a vegetarian. Farming has got into such a terribly sad state, not just beef, or pigs or chickens, but dairy farms too, everything seems to be about quantity at the cheapest possible price with little regard for the animals or the humans who are going to consume the products. This is one of the many reasons I love living out in the country in a quiet part of France, in some ways little has changed for centuries and I hope it always remains this way. Have a lovely week, Susan x

  • We live in a coastal Welsh hamlet. Up until last year our local farmer had a dairy herd, which used to walk along the lane past our house twice daily throughout the summer months. Unfortunately because of the price farmers receive for milk, he has had to let the herd go. Now he is building up a lovely herd of beef cattle, Welsh Blacks, which have a great reputation for tasty meat. I still miss seeing the dairy cows every day. It’s tough out there for farmers, the key seems to be finding a niche market as your blog so clearly demonstrates. The one thing that surprised me though is how short a time the meat is hung in France. Given the choice I always go for 28 day hung. I wonder please, do you find any difference in the tenderness?

    • Hi Julie, I am so glad that your local farmer has been able to build up a different herd, the price of milk and quotas in the UK have made things very very hard for so many people, we have friends who have a dairy herd and they have had to think of all sorts of other ways to make ends meet. It is indeed a very tough time for farmers. The meat is indeed hung for such a short time here and yes, I believe the meat is definitely not as tender. Have a lovely week, hope it’s not too cold. Susan x

  • Regarding your above response “Hi Leslie, it is terribly worrying, not only that they are going to go to China and back, but also that the general public in the USA will not be aware of this.:” Susan, I couldn’t agree more. There are groups in the U.S. who are working hard for full-disclosure-in-labelling requirements, but they are mightily opposed at every junction by Big Farma. It is an incredible battle being waged state by state as well as federally.

    • I do know of some very strong food campaigners in the States, Food Babe, has to be one of the biggest. If it cannot be stopped then at least if everyone is aware they are able to make their own choices.

  • We would have been visiting that farm as well if we’d been there! How wonderful to see the cows and how they are living. It’s exactly as it should be, open honest farming by people who really love and care for their animas and have a genuine desire to provide healthy tasty meat for their customers. A local farm opened a farm shop near us about 10 years ago. they built a barn style building and everything inside was laid out so beautifully. They sold artisan breads and cheeses, cold meats, patés etc and had a butchery on site for their own meat to be prepared and sold. Yes, it does cost a bit more, but my way round that was to buy a little less per person. For example, their lovely chicken breasts were twice the size of the supermarkets’ and not full of water! So I only needed to buy one to fee 2 or 3 of us. Beef mince the same. the quality so good that I could make the same amount feed 4 instead of 2! That way, I didn’t pay more than I used to at the supermarket and I was able to buy meat with a good provenance and which tasted so much better.
    It is up to us, the consumer, to make our voice heard. If we continue to buy meat in supermarkets, they will continue to sell low quality meat. If we change our shopping habits back to farm produce, independent butchers etc, it will help the farmers in the end.
    On the subject of farming – recent programmes on tv, one by Jamie Oliver,one by Hugh Fearnly-Wittinstall, absolutely horrified us. Farmers producing vegetables for the supermarkets had to throw away tons – and I mean tons, mountains – of that vegetable because it was not the right shape!! They were what Jamie called ‘Ugly Veg’ and the supermarkets say we the customer don’t want them. Well Jamie & Hugh went to the supermarkets and spoke to customers, showed them the ‘ugly veg’ and the majority said they would buy them, what did it matter, they were cut up anyway!! It makes me so cross. That poor farmer had to shut down his business after 4 generations. They went to see the family the last day of production and it was heartbreaking – the family were so distressed. All their work gone because of bureaucratic nonsense!
    There, got that off my chest!! Sorry Susan! Let’s hope common sense will eventually prevail.

    • Please don’t get me started on perfect vegetables and the waste. Wonky carrots, spinach leaves with bits eaten out of them by slugs, it’s all part of nature. I am an avid supporter of our local producers, our local baker and our local markets. What a strange world we live in. Never apologise for long comments, love reading every word of them, it’s what makes this more like a personal diary, we can all comment an join in and voice our opinions. Susan x

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