AGRICULTURE – In 2017, I realized that a wine farm, even covered with all the labels, is neither autonomous nor sustainable. This is how I wanted to diversify my activity with breeding to move towards a more virtuous agronomic model. With this agricultural project, I realized very quickly that the agronomic issues in the meat sector were the same as in the wine sector. That’s how I became a cattle and sheep farmer.
4 years of work
With a declining number of farmers in France and a strong desire for food sovereignty on the part of governments, I thought taking over a farm would be simple enough. However, it took me 4 years of work to complete this project. At the end of 2020 I end up having some phone numbers. Among them, Jean-Claude’s. Here’s how he presents his project to me. Tired of working 80 hours a week, at age 54, physical fatigue is gaining ground and the fear of an accident or work stoppage worries him more and more. When you are a breeder, even with a leg broken by an animal, you have to go back to take care of it. Jean-Claude made the decision to sell and change jobs because the pleasure he took in raising his animals was waning.
“Eating better and eating healthier is a slogan that advertisers appropriated to overcome our naivety. I can tell you that in the countryside we are still a long way from being able to say that we provide better, healthy and sustainable food.”
Very quickly, during our discussions, the parallels between the two sectors are striking. In viticulture, we use grape varieties, clones and rootstocks selected for 60 years to meet market demand, norms and economic guidelines. Today our vines get sick as soon as they are planted. It is difficult to imagine a current plantation that will age for more than 20 years. In creation, I realize that the observation is the same. Breeds were selected to meet market demand (tender meat, not too strong flavor, high meat yield). Only nature doesn’t like our guidelines. Calving becomes complicated and the animals’ susceptibility to disease increases. Each time, a new product or a new machine is developed and it is up to the farmer to invest and try to repair the mistakes of international agricultural governance.
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In the past, animals were slaughtered and distributed locally. Customers knew the work of the farmer who created the beast. In the name of “aseptic welfare”, the animals are slaughtered in abattoirs, sometimes away from the farm, before being taken to Rungis and then transported to a point of sale. Can you imagine buying a bottle of wine without knowing which winemaker produced it or which region the wine comes from? No ! Well, that’s what you do by buying meat from a huge number of butchers, from almost every restaurant and, needless to say, from supermarkets.
New food patterns
Dietary patterns have led to an almost total loss of traceability when leaving the slaughterhouse. It’s a bit like a bottle of Château Margaux and a Romanée Conti sitting side by side unlabeled in a wine shop. Like an oenologist, a breeder prepares his animal before slaughter so that it is the most interesting on the palate. Animal nutrition is essential. It is this work that will determine the flavor characteristics of one animal in relation to another. The grass that grows in Morvan is not the same grass that grows in Charolais or Bresse. The meat will also necessarily be different. But obviously we care more about the welfare of a bunch of grapes than that of a cow.
These are the challenges I decided to take on with this project. Eat better and eat healthier is a slogan that advertisers have appropriated to conquer our naivety. I can tell you that in the countryside we are still a long way from being able to say that we provide better, healthy and sustainable food.
After a year of administrative bureaucracy, Jean-Claude and I are now partners. I managed to convince Jean-Claude to continue his work for which he has exceptional know-how. A team member came to support in order to reduce their workload. Finally, we sell directly to starred restaurants or those concerned with the quality of their products to better promote our work.
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