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30/10/2017

Indigenous breeds and gastronomy: scope for innovation

Manel González. Journalist

Spain has two major assets, among others: weather and food. The masses that visit our cities know this well. Tourism figures are increasing progressively, boosted by sunshine and gastronomy, two of Spain's hallmarks. More than 36 million foreign tourists visited Spain in the first six months of 2017, reflecting growth of 11.6% year-on-year.

Those 36 million people enjoyed Spain's unparalleled wealth of gastronomy. Led by the products comprising the Mediterranean triad—wheat, wine and olive oil—Spanish foods are known and recognized around the world for their quality and the importance of tradition in the production process.

As Spain is one of the countries with the largest cattle patrimony, it's worth mentioning products that come from animals, as there are 155 indigenous cattle breeds which have maintained for generations and have strong ties to the areas where they're raised. The diversity of cattle has impacted Spain's gastronomy, as our breeds contribute to a broad variety of unique dishes, which are interesting from a tourism perspective, since they help yield dishes that combine biodiversity with other environmental, cultural and ethnographic values. This distinct offer attracts those tourists searching for different experiences and those who want to avoid the traditional sun and beach vacation or who simply want to make it better.

A basic element in stabilizing the rural population

These native breeds have always stood out for their ability to adapt to the environment in which they're raised, and they clearly play a role in shaping ecosystems, such as the dehesa, which wouldn't exist if they didn't do their part. Our indigenous breeds play an important role in spreading seeds, using inaccessible land and shaping landscapes.

They provided sustenance for a large number of families when resources were scarce, shaping rural life at the time, and they continue to do so through inherited culture, festivals, handmade products and traditions up until today. Indigenous breeds still represent a distinct form of sustenance for many of our stockbreeders, while they also provide different products that give us traditions, memories and nostalgia. Therefore, they remain vitally important in helping sustain the rural population.

However, artisan, traditional products aside, native breeds have always known how to adapt to adversities. Surprising creations have recently become available on the culinary scene, from the appearance of new products to new presentations of classic-but-updated formulas based on products from our native breeds of cattle.

Gastronomy in harmony with innovation

These indigenous breeds yield many different meat and dairy products. There are textures and flavors that appeal to all kinds of palates, which Spanish chefs are well aware of, as they increasingly choose to cook with local meats as a way of adding value to their menus. That's the case with Can Xurrades (Rafa Martínez), a well-known restaurant in Barcelona specializing in beef for more than two decades and which signed an agreement providing it with exclusive access to the Sayaguesa breed in Catalonia for the next 15 years. Sayaguesa beef has muscle infiltrated fat, an oleic acid content comparable with that of Ibérico pigs, and is a very tender meat with an intense flavor. It is, without a doubt, a gourmet product from animals raised in the incomparable region of Sayago, in Zamora province.

The need to find new market niches and new products requires innovation, and native breeds offer Spain's meat industry a wide range of possibilities.

In addition to providing goat meat, the Malagueña goat is used in three innovative products on the market: suckling Málaga goat paté in Málaga wine, and Málaga goat salchichón and chorizo sausages, all of which reflect a commitment to diversification.

Meanwhile, milk from the Guadarrama goat, a native breed from Madrid and at risk of extinction, is used to make natural yogurt and traditional goat's cheese. As part of this enthusiastic search for new products and markets, producers are innovating and making cheeses based on recipes for Brie, Cheddar and Roquefort, as well as a cheese made primarily with craft beer.

Raw milk from the Florida goat, which originally hails from Seville, is being used to make blue cheeses with a strong flavor and spicy undertones, using traditional methods. Other unique products are being made with the Florida goat's milk, among them cheese cured in rosemary and wheat bran, and even lactose-free cheeses.

Meat from Galicia's Celta pig is being used to make two kinds of innovative hamburgers where 100% of the meat comes from this high-quality pig breed. These hamburgers remain intact when cooked as they're mixed with pea flour and chestnut flour. These are, without a doubt, two of the greatest innovations in the hamburger segment and they're available to consumers, as they can be purchased online.

There are also private initiatives, like the Autga Food Truck (Antonio Díaz Calvo), which visits fairs and events and serves dishes made with Celta pigs, Cachena veal, and Mos hens, three native breeds from Galicia at risk of extinction.

Traditional stews made with Asturiana de los Valles veal are also available; they are gluten- and preservative-free and need only to be reheated before eating.

The long list of creations which promote products from indigenous breeds is as long as the list of traditional products on which they're based.

Meat Attraction, with native breeds

Meat products from native breeds were supported at Madrid Meat Attraction, held from October 18th to the 20th. The event is the Spanish meat industry's main fair, organized by IFEMA, the Trade Fair Institution of Madrid, and the National Meat Processing Industries Association of Spain (ANICE).

The fair, held at IFEMA, brought together all of the meat sector's products and solutions, and sought to provide a platform for business opportunities and access to new foreign markets and clients. It was a platform and meeting point for all industry players involved in production and sales, such as slaughterhouses, cutting plants, processing companies, and firms specialized in storage and transport, and marketing and domestic and international distribution, to both the retail sector and to HoReCa.

International procurement manager programs and special invitees selected by the exhibitors, to which IFEMA provided 300,000 euros, were two of the value propositions that Meat Attraction provided to participating companies to expand their business portfolios and access new markets.

Meat from indigenous breeds was also at the three-day event, and was prepared on the spot for all to sample. Products from 100% native breeds could be tasted at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing, Food and the Environment's stand, which supported the preservation and improvement of livestock breeds, including those that bear the “100% raza autóctona” label.

We are committed to indigenous breeds and we are doing our small part to support Spanish biodiversity through consumption, guaranteeing not only their long-term survival, but also that of family-run farms, unique ecosystems and thousand-year-old traditions.

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