These are challenging times for meat lovers, with society exhorted to switch to organic food and limit its intake of meat. But European artisan butchers still have an opportunity to thrive, writes Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec.
Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec is one of France’s most preeminent and internationally-acclaimed artisan butchers.
Over time, man has evolved into regularly consuming meat. Butchers appeared alongside hunters and breeders, managing the process of bringing meat from the land to the table. The artisan butcher now prepares and promotes quality meat products, and optimises conservation and distribution methods.
Today, our profession is facing its biggest-ever challenge. We artisan butchers are living in new times, with completely different lifestyles and eating habits.
On the one hand, we are told that the world is under pressure to supply enough to feed rising populations, and that by 2050 there will be no fewer than 10 billion mouths to feed.
On the other hand, we are exhorted to pollute less, to switch to organic food, and to limit our intake of meat. In other words, we have to reinvent how we live, or else face the system breaking down.
The 21st century, already in its mid-teens is making us rethink our lifestyles and seriously question how we feed ourselves. In these turbulent times, I view my years of experience as an artisan butcher as an advantage. I want to look ahead with hope, especially alongside my two sons, Yann and Paul, who just two years ago both committed to careers in meat.
I do understand that our profession needs to catch up and recreate models in a more responsible, virtuous and passionate manner. However I want to believe that France, with its wonderful countryside and ecosystem, will succeed in promoting the most exceptional meats, in terms of their variety of flavours and aromas. We can then export our know-how and our products, and infuse more humanity into our relationship with meat.
I really hope that US feedlots vanish, and that European subsidies can extend their scope with for example support for insect larvae breeding, so that we reduce our cereals consumption. In the meantime, I intend to continue with my efforts to create the ideal steak, which by its taste and history, will enthuse my sons, new generations of butchers and chefs, as well as those discerning consumers who prize quality.
The meat that in the future will feed our children and grandchildren should no longer be seen as the result of a profit-linked production process. Instead, it should be the result of sensible practices that are at one with the land.
Quite simply, it should be extraordinarily good meat, evoking authentic taste and flavours and echoing the passion and know-how of all those involved in its creation.
I hope that 2016 will mark a turning point for the future of both our sector and our professions, and that we can all work together towards producing, preparing, promoting, and consuming the best meat in the most satisfying and sustainable way possible. May all those passionate about their meat come along with me!