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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY X