Fresh from the French bullring to the table

3rd August 2004, Comments 0 comments

NIMES, France, Aug 3 (AFP) - After charging around the ring facing off with the matador, the picadors and the banderilleros to the delight and cheers of the crowd, the brave bull generally bows out of existence anonymously on a plate.

NIMES, France, Aug 3 (AFP) - After charging around the ring facing off with the matador, the picadors and the banderilleros to the delight and cheers of the crowd, the brave bull generally bows out of existence anonymously on a plate.

At the yearly Whit Sunday feria in this southern French town, which attracts a million people over five days, the crowd devours around 200 horned bulls - almost 20 tons of meat - in the form of sausages, steaks, grilled chops and even stews.

But only around 50 of these are bulls who fell to their knees and died in the sand of the bull-ring. The remainder mostly are bulls specially bred in the nearby Camargue region of France and given an AOC ("appellation d'origine controlee") guarantee of origin label.

As soon as the matador has delivered the "estocade", or death blow, the bulls are bled close to the ring by butchers to avoid problems of coagulation.

"This is necessary to abide by hygiene regulations.

Then the animal is taken to the abattoir, in the normal way," Francoise Legris, a specialist veterinarian working with the bull commission, told AFP.

"The difference with an animal bred to be killed is that bulls killed in the ring have let loose a great deal of energy before dying. But on the other hand, they have not had to face the stress of the abattoir where the animals have to wait their turn, one behind the other.

"You could compare the ones killed in the ring to game," she added.

Pierre Sollier, a wholesale butcher employed by the bullring during the feria, said that bull meat, which often does not have a wonderful reputation, was "stringy, a little wild".

It needed "to be left to ripen for a fortnight or so," he said.

"Let's be honest, this animal was made more for the bullring than for the plate. It doesn't have the same quality as prime charolais beef. It's more a meat for a celebration than for a luxury gourmet meal," Sollier said.

During the Nimes bullfighting feria, some of the bull meat finds its way to market stalls at only EUR 6 a kilo, with nobody apparently worried about the possibility of it carrying "mad cow" disease or the like.

Meat from the bulls that actually fought in the ring is often ordered in advance and is very difficult to find. Restaurants very rarely have it on the menu.

"The tourists are the ones who want it," said Fabrice Garcia at the central market building in Nimes. "They come from all over France for the corrida and buy a piece of bull meat, the same way they'd bring back a souvenir. It feels exotic."

To make sure his clients enjoy a good meal of tender bull meat, he advises them to cook it the local way, "a la gardiane", leaving it to stew for a long time in a pot full of wine and local herbs.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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