HOME > Chowhound > France >

Discussion

Organic Meat Delivered to Paris?

Ahoy Hounds!

I've recently been on the prowl for an organic farm that delivers meat to Paris, and there are a surprising number of them out there. The general idea is that you get a box of meat between 5-12 kilos for €15-19 per/kg depending on the site (which is a HUGE difference in price from buying at the bio stores). I'm wondering if anyone has ordered meat in this manner and can give some feedback as to the quality and taste? I'm all for having a stock of beef in the freezer, but am a little worried about being stuck with 12 kg of crappy product.
The ones catching my eye the most are Biosegur.com, viande-beouf-biologique-paris.com, and atanka.com. There are several others that specialize in pork, veal, etc.

The other thing I'm unsure of is whether these farms are selling beef that is fully grass fed or simply organic. I read the post about grass fed beef/raw dairy, and I'm sure the cows in France generally spend more time in the fields than in the US…however, I've also read that France's feed farms are up north, near Paris, and that it is quite common to send cattle there for a couple months before slaughter. These couple months of eating corn and grains pretty quickly undo all the health benefits of having been pasture raised all their lives.

With my level of french I can understand about 85% of what's written on the websites, but what I understand seems to be a little vague. Any insight would be gratefully received!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I'm just back from the Ferme de Saint-Bonnet website (viande-boeuf-biologique-paris.com) and the offer is interesting. The meat is produced on the farm, cattle in France is grass-fed and in this case there is not much probability of the Saint-Bonnet Aubrac cows spending any time in the feed farms you're mentioning, which are rather designed for supermarkets and grande distribution. There are some cereals in their cow's diet but certainly not much of that and all of it is organic and produced in Auvergne. Also the box of meat from this farm is about 5 kg. Aubrac beef is excellent. I haven't been to the other sites yet.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Ptipois

      Thanks for the insight Ptipois, I was considering going with them because of the smaller amount even though it is one of the more expensive ones. It seems like a lot of pot au feu is in my future! It's also nice to know that Aubrac beef is known to be delicious…having no idea what the difference is between breeds of cattle has been another element of confusion. Thanks again!

      1. re: jinjursnap

        Aubrac meat is high in color and taste, very fine-grained and rather on the lean side but less so than the charolais. It is one of the best bovine meats in France. If you do contact that farm, you should ask them if they also sell veal, for Aubrac veal is outstanding.

        1. re: Ptipois

          Gosh I am late to this, but beef in France is not grass-fed. They're nearly all finished on cereals for several months. An Aubrac is likely to spend its last few months in a shed eating grains along with hay and silage and this changes the flavor and quality.

          It is very hard to finish beef on grass with French cows since they are usually so huge their finishing energy needs are very high. Aubracs are one of the breeds you could grass-finish, though, if you had the right herd genetics.

          Jinjursnap, there is grass-fed and finished beef in France but it is hard to find. If you are ever in the Southwest you can always drop me a line and pop on by. One day we'll make deliveries to Paris since we get a lot of queries from there but not for a couple of years.

          Ptipois, I mean no disrespect since I have read many of your posts and your knowledge is excellent. Beef production is complex and you don't see how they finish the cows.

          I had a quick look at the site listed and this line gives it away: "les céréales proviennent exclusivement de récoltes". They feed cereals to finish their animals, so this isn't grass-fed beef. Still, the herd lives outside all year which is a good thing. They may still bring finish animals inside for a few months or feed cereals in the field but you'd have to ask them.

          I hope you found some tasty beef!

          1. re: GersFarmer

            I never said otherwise and I did mention the period of cereal feeding, which is relatively short for an animal that is primarily grass-fed for most of its life. (We are talking prime-quality cattle here.)

            It remains that good-quality beef in France is dominantly grass-fed compared to most US beef, a point of comparison that often comes up here.

            I see your point but I am not sure you can say plainly that in France "beef is not grass-fed".

            Besides, your description of "grains along with hay and silage" is not exactly a 100% cereal diet. It is also a type of mix (minus the silage, forbidden by the AOC regulations) that is fed after milking to milk cows that produce AOC cheeses in Normandy. You cannot have 100% grass, some extra energy has to be provided.

            But even considering that, there is a distinct difference between French-type grass-fed beef and US-type cereal-fed beef.

            1. re: Ptipois

              Hey cool, the thread still lives.

              Firstly, of course you can have 100% grass-fed beef. There's a lot of it in the USA, Argentina and NZ have huge amounts and it also exists in the UK and France. I know two farms here in the Gers that raise it and a lot of smallholders raise their own for family consumption. Some raise it for health, some for flavor. It isn’t as fast as cereal finishing but it has its market. This is the grass-fed beef market. It is big in the US and growing here in France.

              You claim that French beef is grass-fed but that depends on your definition of ‘grass-fed’. If you think grass followed by a cereal-rich finish phase is ‘grass-fed’ then I’d agree with you except I’d take it further and say all cows could be described as grass-fed, US feedlot or not. If you think grass-fed means 100% grass-fed then very few French cows are ‘grass-fed’.

              All cows have eaten grass for a lot of their lives. Even US feedlot cows only spend the last 3-6 months in a feedlot. The difference is in the finish phase.

              Either your finish phase has cereals in it or it doesn’t. Either works fine, each is different, different strokes for different folks. We do 100% grass for our beef because we think that makes better-tasting, beefier, old-school beef. That is what we care about.

              Where this is important is that the original poster jinjursnap was explicitly looking for grass-finished beef and said “it is quite common to send cattle there [the feedlot] for a couple months before slaughter. These couple months of eating corn and grains pretty quickly undo all the health benefits of having been pasture raised all their lives.” Now jinjursnap is concerned with health changes from cereals in the finish phase. There are folks that care about this (e.g. http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits...) and measure the changes that happen to things like O3/O6 ratios and CLA in the finish phase. E.g. see the last 20 slides of Anibal Pordomingo’s talk on finishing grass-fed beef where he goes through the various research results in this area (this is biggish, and the relevant stuff starts at slide 102): http://www.grassfedlivestock.org/10-0...

              I do think there are differences between French and US beef. Not only are the cattle frames larger here, they are eaten older and are mostly eaten as retired mother cows or as bulls. The US steak market is more heifers (younger females, not mothers) and steers (castrated males). In the US you are eating 15-24 month old animals and in France you’re more likely eating 2-10 year olds. I love how the French treat the older beef with respect and don’t automatically turn everything into ground beef/mince. I also think the cows look absolutely magnificent, which is important when I have to work them every day.

              Maybe you mean that because French cows are slaughtered older they’ve eaten more grass in their life. I’d agree with you on that. You might be saying more than that but I haven’t figured it out. Why do you think French beef is grass-fed and US beef isn’t under the same definition? Both French and US cows are generally finished in a building on a finish ration for 3-6 months.

              Cheers, Brent.

              1. re: GersFarmer

                >>> Why do you think French beef is grass-fed and US beef isn’t under the same definition?

                Simply because grass-fed is the tradition here!

                I am not a butcher but I find it a little strange when you write that the grass-fed market "is big in the US and growing here in France" because it is not exactly growing in France - it has always been the most common approach.

                I get it from charolais breeders in the Center-East region that they never used cereals for quite a long time, and many still don't. Also Salers cows "de réforme" used to go directly from the pasture to the slaughterhouse. Not anymore perhaps. In France, the favorite type of beef until recently (it is still quite common, unfortunately) was typically unmarbled and as lean as possible. Now the criteria are changing; finishing with cereals seems more common than it used to be in France.

                1. re: Ptipois

                  Yes, I think finishing using cereals is now the norm. That’s where I think the different view between us comes from. Despite the traditions, I don’t see the French beef market as grass-fed. It is finished with cereals.

                  I haven't seen much evidence of grass-finishing. I have a herd of Salers which would be the easiest French breed to grass-finish, but every farm of Salers I've visited uses a finish ration with cereals. I can't talk to the Center-East but farms in the Centre that I've seen use cereals and where I live in the SW is the home of Blondes and they're all finished with cereals too. I’m guessing the tradition passed away a while back, just like in the UK and USA. Maybe the EU subsidies had something to do with it since they give incentives for more land to be in cereals.

                  I read a doc the other day from the chambre d'agriculture in Haute-Marne that describes seven finish methods for Charolais finished on grass. I was all excited until I read through the details and all seven methods involved large amounts of cereals. You can check it out if you are interested: http://www.haute-marne.chambagri.fr/k... They're selling those charolais as pasture finished but still using cereals. This wouldn’t satisfy the OP’s demand.

                  I’d love it if France went back to grass-only beef since I think it just tastes better, but it is slower and can be difficult to do at certain times of the year.

                  1. re: GersFarmer

                    >>> Maybe the EU subsidies had something to do with it since they give incentives for more land to be in cereals.

                    Aside from that there is also the explanation that people's and animals' diets have changed radically since Postwar times, owing to the remodeling of agriculture, but even then grass feeding has endured for quite a long time and is still considered the tradition.

                    Food was relatively scarce and precious before WW2, far more in Western Europe than in the US, and it wasn't before the postwar times that it became plentiful, especially cereals. Before the 1950s here in France, nobody would have even thought of giving precious cereals to cattle even for a short period before slaughtering. There was just enough of them for breadmaking. Of course after WWI, meat consumption became far more widespread here because there was more meat, and there was more meat partly because there were more cereals.

                    I think it is all a matter of nuances, for unless one follows a strict no-carbs diet (including the requirement that even the cow you're eating hasn't eaten any cereals), it is arguable whether cereal finishing for a short period instantly removes the critter from the grass-fed category (talking about taste, texture and the general quality of the meat). In other terms, does a cow that has eaten grass all her life lose her "grass-fed" status and, more importantly, natural characteristics when it is cereal-finished for a short period? I am not sure. That can be discussed.

                    Most French beef differs radically from American beef by taste and texture, and many American beef lovers claim not to enjoy the "gamey" flavor and "tough" texture of French beef, attributing that character to a larger proportion of grass-feeding, whereas in way of USDA beef I've often had meat that was beautifully marbled, juicy and tender, but tasteless. Now there are many other factors that may influence that, i.e. the use of antibiotics and other this-and-that-enhancing substances, the breed, the climate, the ageing, etc. - and besides I've also noticed that French butchers, interprofessional associations, unions and other entities in the meat business are extremely diverse in their working habits and approaches, to the point that very few agree with each other. That may also account for different methods from region to region. And the social destination of the meat is most important: are we feeding a cow for prime meat that can be aged (a growing trend in France), or for lean and watery bright-red stuff that will end up in white styrofoam boxes in every supermarket? There is a world of difference there.

                    When I mentioned charolais I wasn't particularly referring to the breed but to my interviews with breeders and butchers from the Lyonnais and Nivernais regions, i.e. the traditional birthplace of charolais beef, where traditional grass-finishing methods are still used, or at any rate are still a very vivid memory. Far from the Haute-Marne, where charolais can be bred any which way you want, as they would be in Normandy or Spain or wherever.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      This is a fascinating and informative thread for anybody buying and eating beef in France.

                      I live part of the year in Limousin and have been trying to source 100% grass fed beef locally (production herbagers?). If I read GersFarmer correctly, this requires searching out smaller artisan producers who consciously work along traditional lines. My local searching continues - there are several farm shop type operations in the south Limousin/Correze area but the only way to find out how the beef is produced is to talk directly to the producer.

                      The rest of the year I live in Brussels and eat mainly Irish beef (yes digression, I know). Ireland's climate allows a comparative advantage in producing great grass and Irish cattle turn this grass into naturally produced beef. This usually involves grass in summer and silage in winter – the mix being more cost effective than grain there but also produces better premium quality beef. In some places (SW) mild temperate allows grazing almost all year round.

                      I’m not sure if this is feasible throughout most of France but stand to be corrected. GersFarmer may be able to answer this.

                      Neither does this mean that the Irish beef available in supermarkets throughout France always meets this criterion -the usual caveats apply. I have the impression that 100% grass fed Irish beef is best sourced from specialist like Jack O’Shea (http://www.jackoshea.com/ - available in UK, Belgium and Germany but not unfortunately France).

                      Local sourcing is however important in the longer run and the only way to encourage producers who follow these methods is to support them by buying their product.

                      1. re: kerriar

                        Recently I tasted a piece of grilled faux-filet at the Beef Club in Paris; it was British beef (from England) selected and butchered by Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec. I think it was entirely grass-fed. The taste, texture, juiciness, flavor, etc., were far above anything I'd eaten in recent years, except for one piece of chianina entrecôte sourced from Tuscany.

                        At the same time, it reminded me uncannily of some Norman beef steak I remembered from my childhood, so you see the history of beef in Western Europe is a complicated one.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          Le Bourdonnec now has a herd of British cross-breed cattle of his own, or at least he posted a photo of them up on his facebook page.

                          Norman cows make good beef. The milk/beef breeds (Normande, Salers) both make great tasting beef even if they aren't the big muscular animals of the big three beef-only breeds (Char, Lim, Blonde).

                          I love how people can remember the great steaks they've eaten! I'm the same way.

                        2. re: kerriar

                          Hello Kerriar, this is Gers Farmer but I created a new account with the same name as I use for the farm website (http://grasspunk.com). The Gers Farmer account was from a couple of years back before we named our site. Sorry for the slow response – computer time is dominated by working with customers at the moment since we have a beef sale this Friday.

                          You asked a few big questions and I could talk for hours but I’ll do my best to keep it short and share what I know.

                          Given the high frequency of cereal use for finishing you’re likely not getting 100% grass-fed beef, although it is possible your butcher has a source. If you can maybe find a local farmer who sells direct and visit them to see what they do which can be a lot of fun as well as informative. Sometimes people sell through leboncoin.fr, too. It is difficult to do grass-fed beef right and you either have to finish seasonally (now is a good time) or spend a bunch of effort seeding annuals and temporary pastures to get year-round coverage of quality forage (which is what we do).

                          Some people have their herd out all year round, but it needs planning. It is hard to generalize because France has a huge variety of farm conditions, but I can talk about the southwest. As you drive around in winter if you see cows you can check what they’re eating – hay from a feeder? Stockpiled forage? I find it fascinating to figure out what is going on each time I pass a new farm, although it becomes distracting when you watch a movie and try and figure out the state of the pasture in the background. :-

                          )

                          Most farmers around here in the Gers put the herd inside for a few months in winter, sometimes chained about the neck, sometimes in pens (stabulation libre). They can control the rationing of food, watch for the birth of calves and protect their clay fields from the damage of the heavy cows. Farmers in your area with Limousines will be more likely to leave their herd out for the winter since they are fine hardy animals, unlike the more fragile Blondes where we are.

                          I've seen people put some of their cows out in sacrifice paddocks where they end up standing in deep mud eating hay out of a feeder. Not a great solution but they do it to save damaging the entire farm. You talk about Ireland which is having a huge rain problem this year. They are importing hay from France! Ireland is a very good place for grass-fed beef.

                          I've seen people use their wooded areas for winter cow housing and that works well. The rough ground resists damage.

                          Our solution is to use something called by various names like mob grazing, managed intensive grazing, strip grazing and so on. We keep one big herd and move them daily, more often when wet, so each piece of ground gets months of rest between short grazings. This is great for both the cows and the pasture and was inspired by a Frenchman called André Voisin who wrote some still-valuable text books in the 1950s. I could go on but will stop here.

                          Good luck hunting down your beef! Feel free to call in if you ever make it this far south.

                          1. re: grasspunk

                            Thanks Grasspunk - that is really great and the time and knowledge is really appreciated.

                            I have ok French and enjoy going around talking to artisan food producers and am also fascinated by how these things work in practice. Whether its honey, cheese, meat or whatever is produced, they are usually enthusiastic individuals, happy to tell you about their way of life and their business, what they do and why they do it and how all this fits into regional economic and social history.

                            By the way - you've a great website