Gascony Mirandais Ox France
Particularly suited for agricultural work requiring strength, docility and resistance to heat, the Mirandaise cattle breed, originally from the Gers region, was widespread until the mid 20th century.
The well-built oxen were renowned for their strength and essential for farmers wanting to work the difficult soils of the area. At the end of their working life, they were fattened up and provided meat rich in interstitial fat which publications of the time distinguished from other beef for its tenderness and exceptional flavor.
The mechanization of agriculture cause this breed to be gradually abandoned. At the end of the 1970s there were no more than 150 cows and one purebred bull still kept by farmers resisting the dominant trend to standardization.
In the 1980s a program was launched to recover the breed and in 2008 more than 500 cows were recorded distributed around sixty farms.
While the Mirandaise is no longer used to work the land, it is still held in high regard by farmers for its good reproductive capacity and fattening ability.
The breed is active, dynamic and can be left to pasture. In a region where extensive crops are increasingly competing with livestock farming, their hardy characteristics give them an advantage in occupying difficult pastoral high country.
A range of products are sold, though still in small quantities: veal, broutards (calves raised only with maternal milk and slaughtered between 9 and 12 months), fattening cows and steers (castrated males slaughtered at the age of 4 or 5 years); yet so far consumers do not distinguish these products from those of more conventional cattle.
A small group of farmers, with support from the Mirande Agricultural School, has decided to establish a complete production chain focusing on the top product of the breed, the Gers Mirandaise ox.
Permeated with distinctive local character, and fattened with cereals, Jerusalem artichokes and cooked beans, this animal can satisfy the most demanding of palates.
The initiative to commercially develop this breed is still at an early stage and a producer association is being organized.
Local consumers are already relishing the first pot roasts of Mirandaise beef. The venture is not all plain sailing however: a large investment is required to farm Mirandaise cattle to a high standard and farmers only earn an income at a much later date; additionally, this product needs to have a fairly high final price and consumers need to be properly informed and appreciate the value added.
Collaboration with Slow Food will allow the exceptional flavor of this meat to be communicated and recognized through promotional and taste education initiatives.
A second form of collaboration will involve support for the production chain by efforts such as creating collaboration networks with other cattle producers. This is in preparation for rules that respect animals, their potential, the history they embody and their environment.
The Presidium will work to ensure that Gers Mirandaise cattle, which were almost completely replaced by more productive animals, can regain their rightful position as a top quality local gastronomic delicacy.
Gers Department, Midi-Pyrénées Region
Presidium supported by
La Maison du Paysan
tel. + 33 604652397
tel. +33 601390683