FARMERS from the Hérault are feeding their cows a litre of local wine a day in a bid to create tastier meat – and to get higher prices.
The idea came from wine grower Jean-Charles Tastavy, who was inspired by Japanese beer-fed Kobe beef and by farms in Canada and Spain which already use wine – ribeye steaks from one Spanish breeder (using Japanese Wagyu cattle) sell to French restaurants at €150 a kilo.
He added: “We are confident it will work because it makes the animals happier. The Bible says ‘there is no joy without wine’.”
Farmers have tested the idea with two Angus bulls and a Camargue one, which were gelded then fattened over five months with special winesoaked muesli.
At first they added solid grape remains to it after pressing and then they moved on to one litre per animal of red wine, per day.
First to taste the meat will be delegates at the national conference of the FNSEA farmers' union, which was being held in Montpellier as Connexion went to press.
Hérault departmental director Marie-Pierre Lalle said the idea was not an April Fool and was being promoted by the new association, VinBovin, made up of vignerons and farming bodies. “It brings together two industries – wine and livestock – through one product, wine-fed beef. Until now, nothing similar has been produced here, so we are experimenting to see how it goes.
“We are taking advantage of the fact that the conference is here to offer the meat to visitors. If they like it we hope to continue the experiment and eventually have a wine-fed beef industry here.”
Kobe beef is known for its tenderness, fatty, well-marbled texture and flavour and farmers are said to massage the cows and feed them beer. The Spanish cows are played music.
Ms Lalle said the French farmers have not decided if they will follow suit: “The key thing is they should have a calm environment. Our animals were lively and had shiny coats, so you could see they were well.”
It was too early to say if the meat might fetch similar prices to that of the Spanish beef, she said.
* Research in Australia has found that cows fed winemaking grape remains produced 5% more milk and produced 20% less methane gas.
Bid to cut reduce alcohol in wine
FRENCH researchers are trying to find a way to cut wine’s alcohol content as health-conscious consumers and drivers are turning from the stronger 14% wines now being produced. Climate change means alcohol has risen from 11% as picking is now done in August not September, which is too hot for pickers and cuts quality. Scientists plan to take alcohol out of the wine without changing the taste.