Writing for The Telegraph, Peter Allen in Paris reports on French cows being fed up to two bottles of high quality wine every day as part of a project to produce the best beef in Europe.
Allen claims the “Vinbovin” label beef is already being championed by some of the best restaurants in Paris.
The project follows an experiment in Lunel-Viel, in the southern Herault region of France, which saw three cows fed local wine for four months.
The idea was conceived by Jean-Charles Tastavy, who said the two Angus and one Camargue were initially fed the wine in a mix of barley, hay and grapes.
Tastavy claims they were happy cows who ended up producing an exceptionally succulent meat. Just exactly how Tastavy determined the cows were “happy” is a mystery.
“For each animal, alcohol intake should be equivalent to the amount recommended by health authorities for a man — namely two or three glasses of wine a day. In the case of cows, this amounts to between a liter and a liter and-a-half a day,” said Tastavy.
Following an initial mixture of grapes and water, the cows were fed wine from Saint-Genies des Mourgues, a Languedoc village near Montpellier renowned for its vineyards.
“The cattle loved what was on the menu and drank it with relish,” said Claude Chaballier, owner of the farm where the experiment started last year.
Mr Chaballier added: “I thought that next time we may try Muscat so as to give the meat a more musky taste.”
Michelin-starred chef, Laurent Pourcel, raved about the beef. “It has a very special texture — beautiful, marbled and tender, and which caramelises during cooking. All the best Parisien restaurants will take it.”
But feeding cows wine comes at a high price. Adding wine into the feed of the Lunel-Viel cows tripled the cost of their feed, adding up to £80 to the cost of a prime beef cut.
Allen points out that Japanese Kobe beef, which is made with beer, is currently considered among the best in the world.
But the possibility of cows enjoying vintage wine will guarantee an even more luxurious product, writes Allen.
On the subject of Kobe beef, the last year Japanese beef was legally purchased in the US was 2009. So anyone who has dined on real Kobe beef in the US in recent years has only done so because someone smuggled it into the United States.
According to the UDSA, as of early 2010 all beef from Japan including that normally referred to as Kobe beef, was refused entry into the US, including in passenger luggage.
However, as Larry Olmsted points out, all that has now changed.
In August, the USDA relaxed its rules and allowed the limited importation of some Japanese beef. Nevertheless, Olmsted claims Japanese beef won’t be supplied in your supermarket anytime soon.
The small amount that is being imported today is going almost exclusively to high-end steakhouses who will charge extravagantly for the privilege.