Japan’s Kobe cows were the original tipplers, known to indulge in the occasional frothy beer to stimulate their appetites. Some southern Japanese farmers even used booze as a superficial primer, dabbing their cows’ hides with sake to improve the skin’s appearance and softness.
But now the boozed-up bovines have a new challenger — from the French, thanks to a winemaker in the south of the country who wondered what a few glasses of wine each day would do for the quality of beef from local farmers. Languedoc-Roussillon winemaker Jean-Charles Tastavy decided to experiment after learning of studies in Spain and Canada that highlighted the merits of keeping animals happy to yield better meat, the Agence France-Presse reports.
Tastavy partnered with farmer Claude Chaballier, who had a surplus of cows on which they could test the wine theory. Starting in 2011 after the fall grape harvest, three cows were fed the pomace, essentially the remainders of pressed grapes, washed down with water. Then they chose to feed the cows the real deal: locally produced wine from St.-Geniès des Mourgues. “The cows appreciated the menu and ate with enjoyment,” Tastavy said.
And now the French cows are getting a daily oenological infusion — of up to two bottles each. Tastavy explains they’ve scaled the cattle’s wine intake based on authorities’ recommended drinking habits: “For a person, we know it’s two or three glasses of wine a day. For a cow, that means 1 to 1.5 liters per day,” Tastavy told the AFP.
But the wine wasn’t boosting just the cows’ spirits. The growers found it also improved their taste. Michelin-starred chef Laurent Pourcel had a taste of the “viande de luxe” — luxury beef — and hedges that there’s a bustling market for it among a foodie crowd. It has a “very special texture, beautiful, marbled and tender, which caramelizes while cooking.”
It started as a four-month trial on just three cows, but it was such a success that they’re planning to expand the program. Tastavy and Chaballier have even created the Vinbovin meat label, fusing the French words for wine and cattle into what’s surely an easily slurred moniker.
The daily cost of feeding the cows tripled from $6 to $18, which has led to a steep increase in the cost of the meat. One kilogram (2.2 lb) of the vino-infused beef will set you back about $122. Because, to be sure, these cows aren’t cheap dates.