French Meat assigned Quality labels proving just the ticket24-07-2017
Quality labels are intended to guide consumers and help them identify the most suitable meat for their needs, whether its beef, pork, lamb or veal.
An entire product sector working together
In France, quality signs officially recognise superior taste and environmentally-friendly production methods, or even testify a product’s provenance or typical character. Different labels or quality signs work in harmony and help consumers identify exceptional meats in traditional butcher’s shops and on supermarket shelves.
For producers working in a sector protected with a quality guarantee, these official labels recognise and promote skilled expertise and specific production methods. Once in receipt of a label, the entire sector must continue to reflect on continuing to improve production in order to provide consumers with produce of impeccable quality. The label guarantees the commitment of every single player involved in producing or processing food products under the official sign of quality.
Label Rouge: meat of the highest calibre
Label Rouge is a French quality label designating superior meat. Production methods are clearly defined and cover the entire meat industry, from breeders and processors to retailers. The superior quality of Label Rouge is the result of an entire industry coming together voluntarily to support the initiative: at every stage of the process, everyone working in the meat industry, whether farmers, slaughterhouse workers, processors or master butchers, commit contractually to adhere to a rigorous legal framework of production guidelines, and to apply them at every stage.
AOC: all about the terroir
Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) is a French quality label that identifies an intrinsic relationship between the product, its terroir and the skilled expertise fundamental to its production. More explicitly, it is the climate, soil and even feed which will define the specific character of the livestock and the meat produced. There is also a strong notion of traditional production methods linked to the area. To qualify for an AOC, the food must come from a designated region or zone of production, such as Camargue, the près salés de la Baie de Somme, the salt meadows on the Atlantic coast where lamb are grazed, the Charolais pastures, home of Charolais beef, or the Mezenc plateau, also for cattle breeding.
PDO: AOC’s European equivalent
PDO, Protected designation of origin, is the European version of French AOC. This quality label guarantees that foods are prepared, processed and produced within a designated geographical area or specific place, with a recognised and certified production method, and thus acquire unique properties.
PGI: enhancing the reputation of the meat sector
PGI, Protected Geographical Indication, is a European quality sign denoting the name of an area or specific place. Identifying the quality and origin of an agricultural product, this label certifies the strong link between the product and the geographical area or provenance, which will impart unique properties or reputation.
Like other labels (AOC, PDO, Label rouge and organic), the INAO, Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité, part of the French Ministry of Agriculture, is the organisation that regulates the PGI process and ensures the legal framework complies with requirements set by European authorities.
Organic meat is meat originating from animals reared and fed according to a strict set of standards determined by “Agriculture Biologique” quality label (organic farming) determining quality and origin.
Organic farming is a specific method of production which adheres to a set of environmentally-friendly agricultural practices and breeding methods.
Les autres moins connues
Various other official quality initiatives in France apply to all meats, notably Produit de montagne and Produit fermier, identifying products which originate from the mountains or farm, and also the CQ logo, allowing consumers to easily identify certified products.
French meat around the world
95% of French meat exports are sold in Europe, with the remainder sold in North America and Asia. The conditions that must be met to enter these markets are extremely stringent and only superior quality meats qualify. This is the case with quality label meats from France which are the toast of the finest restaurants, hotels and prestigious master butchers around the world. In the meat section, among the most highly-prized meats are beef, known for classic dishes such as beef bourguignon or pot au feu stew, and also the famous chateaubriand. French poultry also enjoys an excellent reputation, notably for fattened chicken or capon, but also for coq au vin, a popular dish from Eastern France. Last but not least, French duck enjoys worldwide acclaim for maigret and foie gras.
Summer’s here and it’s time for barbecued (quality) French meat
The time is ripe for BBQ premium quality meat. Look out for quick cook cuts such as ribs, chops, beefsteak and entrecote, meat burgers flavoured with onions and gherkins, or succulent homemade meat skewers. Here’s a few tips for cooking times to allow your meat to shine:
- Côtelettes de veau ou d’agneau de 2-3 cm : 9 à 10 minutes.
- Carré d’agneau de 1,5 kilo : 1 heure et 10 minutes.
- Côte de bœuf de 5 cm : 20 minutes.
- Brochettes : 7 à 8 minutes.
- Steaks hachés : 6 à 7 minutes.
It’s a good idea to marinate the meat before cooking to prevent it burning on the outside. Marinades, whether light and runny or wonderfully rich and sticky, will conduct the heat and prevent the meat from drying out or burning on the outside. They also taste delicious. Instant marinades or glazes work well for small cuts of meat such as steaks or skewers. For larger cuts that take longer to cook, such as larger cuts of veal or beef, or rack of lamb, stickier marinades work better, for example containing honey or mustard.