The lush meadows of the Rouergue border are bursting with happiness ahead of this glorious summer. They are almost light-years away from Mount Fuji, Japan’s “sacred mountain”. A bit like Najac with Kobe, another mythical city in the “Land of the Rising Sun.” In spite of! Thanks to the determination of Émilie and Fabrice Lafon, a few young herders from Aveyron, wagyu cows, raised in Kobé, are now living with a herd of limousines. A challenge that goes hand in hand with a great adventure.
Above, not far from the Aveyron, on the land of the Testas farm, in Najac, a strange ballet was taking shape. A couple of Occitan calls and wagyu cows with black coats, contrasting the red of the limousines, until full gallop. Seeing them appear might suggest that the Camargue swamps have moved a little further north-west of France.
But it is nothing. Because a closer look, it is impossible not to measure the two races with only one hair color in common.
“A slightly crazy bet”
For the rest, it all started with Fabrice and Émilie Lafon’s desire to diversify livestock. “I want to continue something else that we don’t often see”, cut Emily. A television report and several subsequent meetings with the pioneers of this breeding in France, the couple set their sights on wagyu beef, the name of the very premium Kobe beef breed. It is necessary to establish a whole organization together with a breeding plan that begins with the purchase of embryos, first placed on purebred limousines. Success is not really at the rendezvous point, “risk when you work for a living”follow-up questions.
Until a purebred wagyu cow is purchased, two cows, through the trial and error inherent in the process, will eventually bear their offspring. “We will have two more births by the end of the year.”, Emily was delighted, knowing that their approach seemed like a slightly crazy bet. Finally, after a lot of time and hard work, the first results are visible.
Guapo, Fuki, Okydon Tokyo, Saka… Each animal has its own name. Like a game for Nina and Hugo, the children of Émilie and Fabrice, who baptize some of the least Japanese-sounding names. As soon as she saw the small family, the cow ran free from the depths of the park to be petted. “They are extremely kind”, Emily laughed. And add: “We have a female, she’s a dog, she loves to be petted between her ears…” And they will still have grain to grind, because at the end of the year two more Kobe calves, which will be born on the farm, will join the extended family. Bringing a bit of the quiet and peaceful power of the “Land of the Rising Sun”, where Mount Fuji looks over vast lands…
“It’s meat excellence”
Without eating all her wagyu beef, Émilie Lafon is still very sharp. “We knew it was a niche product, with a price tag that seemed outrageous given its rarity and excellence.” If she were to compare it to the truffle, she would of course highlight the long work the process entails. Real beef is castrated for two to four months, then weaned after seven months, the wagyu will be fattened patiently for three years with farm-produced alfalfa, then with a blend of grains and seeds linen. The meat was very marbled and tender as desired. stand out from other types of beef. “Of course, the breed wants that, but food does the rest,” she defends. When you taste wagyu for the first time, the taste discovery will explode. Arriving in France about fifteen years ago, wagyu (literally “beef from Japan”), with its delicious and delicate texture, whose most famous variant is Kobe beef, is raised only in Kobe and now protected by protected geographical identification, found a place in the sunshine in the French grasslands and invited himself to the greatest tables. Many chefs have fallen in love with its delicate meaty flavor. It is also for this that Fabrice works, more on the livestock side, and Émilie on a commercial level (to contact her, call 06 33 36 17 43). “Our goal is to offer our products to the chefs of the territory,” she insisted. Nicole Fagegaliter, celebrity chef at Auberge du Vieux Pont in Belcastel, is reaching out to her. Émilie Lafon offered this meat on the menu on her table in Najac, “Tartines et compagnie”, where she supplies products from Testas’ farm direct from producer to consumer But you must Be patient, the last steak to hit the market is in the spring. The next one will have to wait until April 2023.