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Beef cattle

Meat has always had a long standing tradition in Mugello, and for numerous years the territory has been dedicated to promoting this wealth.

Only breeds which are able to adapt to the environment are bred here. Fore example:  the Limousine,  Charolaise, Chianina, Calvana and the Romagnola breeds.
There are two different types of breeding farms, the organic farm, which abides by strict regulations, and the conventional one. However all the feed is strictly vegetable and the living conditions of the animals are excellent. Pure bred calves are slaughtered before they are 24 months of age.
An important contribution to the cow-to-calf breeding line was introduced by the  Centro Carni di Rabatta (Vicchio). It ensures breeders and consumers alike on the quality of the meat. Realized by the  Comunità Montana Mugello Val di Sieve, now known as the Centro Carni run by CAF (Cooperativa Agricola di Firenzuola, they butcher the meat for anyone who needs them, but only sell the meat of members of the Coop (mostly Mugello based breeders) who follow specific regulations that ensure the traceability of the product: from birth to the butcher through a breeding process that prohibits the use of any sort of synthetic substances capable of altering the normal development of the animal.
Organic Beef comes from breeding farms in which regular controls are conducted by expert technicians from individual farms or control boards that overlook the entire organic breeding process, as well as independent national organizations. The animals raised organically must be provided with a grazing area and, mostly, must be fed dry forage and cereals derived strictly from organic crops, while any preventive and/or systematic use of drugs is strictly prohibited.

A cut of Florentine steakA cut of Florentine steak

Beef cattle

Meat has always had a long standing tradition in Mugello, and for numerous years the territory has been dedicated to promoting this wealth.

Organic meat

There are numerous different organic breeders in Mugello. The BIO (organic) producers are controlled by a choice of expert technicians from any of the following Food Control Boards: ICEA, CCPBI, and Istituto Mediterraneo di Certificazione, etc. The Milan based SGS Italia s.r.l. oversees the entire network. It is an independent control board that complies with European EN 45011 regulations, and that controls every phase of the meat making process. In order to perform its duties effectively, SGS has free access to the different stages of production and sales, and can inspect both paperwork and the actual production process.
Organic breeders work within a closed cycle, and use a system that is defined the “cow-to-calf line”. The calf is born free and stays with its mother until it is weaned, which is a system that has been developed to provide the hills and, in particular, the Mugello mountains with zoo technical advantages. The herds are reared from spring to autumn on the open field (alpine pastures), while the calves that are meant for the BIO production are weaned at six months and later taken to a breeding farm where they are reared in holding pens and fed strictly home produced products such as cereal and dry forage. Their feed is strictly organic and is rich in mineral salts and proteins that derive only from vegetable sources and are OGM free (in accordance with European regulations on organic feeds for livestock). They are then fattened on farms that abide by European Community and regional regulations to control organic zoo technical products, and animal welfare.

The breeds

Limousine, Charolaise, Chianina, Calvana and Romagnola cattle are reared on the Mugello territory.

Limousine

This breed of cow finds its origins in the Massif Central in France, and has expanded notably throughout the Mugello area.
It has always been bred for its meat, but a careful selection process has made it a highly specific breed that provides a great deal of beef at the time of butchering and calves that can be sold any time from 3 months to 2 years of age. The gregarious nature of the animal and the robustness of its legs and thighs result in excellent Limousine herds that graze prolifically. The cows calve easily and this can take place sometimes more than once a year. The maternal instinct of the cows, the quantity of  milk produced and the fact that it is rich in fat guarantee the calves a healthy growth rate, which takes them from their rather low birth weight, less than 40 kg, to over 250 kg at the time of weaning at 6-7 months of age.
Other characteristics, which are a result of the selection process, are long life span and fertility. The Limousine cow, both older and younger animals, has a reddish-brown hide with lighter patches around the eyes and snout.
The Limousine cow, thanks to the numerous consequences of the selection process, has pushed Florentine zoo technology to the top of its category nationally and has put it in the spotlight in International Competitions.

Charolaise

This breed of cattle finds its origins in central France, and the beef production can be traced back to the 17th century.
An accurate selection process has accentuated its fine qualities and has contributed to its distinction world over. There are numerous breeders in Mugello, and the animal is especially suitable for cross-breeding to improve the beef production in the offspring of dairy cows, although recently there has been an increasing interest in keeping the breed pure.
Characteristically, this animal is docile and has a long life span.
The Charolaise cow has distinct maternal instincts and nurtures its offspring abundantly; its milk is very rich in fat. It is a sturdy breed with a good appetite, which means it assimilates even the most natural unprocessed forage.
The selection process aims to improve the production of beef and to maintain the massive build, which is essential when grazing on extensive pastures.

Chianina

This ancient Italian breed, reared mostly in Umbria and Tuscany, dates back to Etruscan times where it was known as the “Etruscan Breed”.
The name derives from the origins of the breed, which lie in the fertile planes of central Italy, the Val di Chiana (Chiana valley), and from which it has spread throughout the world, crossing the ocean in the 60’s and reaching as far as Latin America, Australia, Canada and the United States. For over a century this breed has been specially selected for the production of beef. It is, in fact, gigantic and one of the biggest cattle breeds known to man. An adult bull can be up to 2 metres tall at the shoulders and weigh 17 hundred kilos.

There is an abundant longitudinal muscle mass along with a slight frame and fine hide. Full grown animals are porcelain white, typical for this breed, with a black snout.  The calves are reddish-brown at birth and only start changing colour at three months. The selection process aims at producing beef with excellent dietetic and organoleptic characteristics, safeguarding the ability to adapt to different grazing systems, and excellent maternal instincts.
In the Province of Florence, the Chianina cow is reared in Mugello and in Val d’Arno, with numerous farms also in Val d’Elsa. The selection process carried out in recent years has produced notable results and excellent Regional and National recognition.

Calvana

Traditionally, this breed was reared on the Calvana hills, from which it gets its name, in the cities of Prato, Montemurlo, Vaglia, Cantagallo, Vernio, Barberino di Mugello and Sesto Fiorentino. The Calvana cow is listed under D.M. 7/8/1935 as an ecotype of the Chianina.
It differs in size from the Chianina cow: it is 200 kilos lighter and 10 centimetres shorter. These characteristics, along with its sturdy, frugal nature, are a result of the harsh surroundings of the Calvana pastures, where we can still find herds grazing in a wild state.
It now falls under the protection of a Tuscan region preservation programme for animals at risk of extinction and is reared by 25 producers, for a total of 340 heads,
The Associazione Allevatori di Firenze e Prato (Florence and Prato breeders association) detains the Birth Records of the breed.

Romagnola

The name of this breed comes from its land of origin, Romagna, where the majority of the breeders are situated.
In the Province of Florence they are traditionally reared in the towns in Upper Mugello, on the Emilia-Romagna border in the towns of: Firenzuola, Marradi, and Palazzuolo sul Senio. This breed was once important for both its beef and its capacity to work in the fields, today however it is used exclusively for the production of beef.
A careful selection process, along with genetic development, has produced, through the years, an increase in muscle mass without altering its original excellent characteristics: powerful build, excellent grazing capacity, optimum maternal instinct and effortless calving.
Fresh forage and hay are the main nutritional source for Romagnola herds that are free to graze wildly all year long. Semi-wild breeding farms, characterized by the cow-to-calf line and the presence of the bull in the herd, represent the ideal integration system and gain maximum benefit from a mountainous environment.

Sheep farming for the production of meat

The sheep breeds that are reared in Mugello are: Appenninica, Bergamasca  and Suffolk.

Appenninica

The Appenninica (Apennines) breed derives from a sheep breed that is reared along the central Apennines mountain range.
It is medium to large, and rams can weigh from 70 to 95 kg, while the ewe can weigh 50-60 kg. The head is hornless, the profile straight but slightly arched. The selection process aims to increase the production of meat. The lambs from this breed weigh 15-17 kg 40-50 days after birth, and 23-27 kg 100 days after birth.

Bergamasca

The Bergamasca breed is reared mainly in alpine provinces in Lombardia, but it is slowly spreading to other areas as a cross-breed.

The Bergamasca is very big and an average ram weighs over 100 kg, while a ewe can weigh from 74 to 85 kg. The head is hornless, long and with a ram-like profile. The selection process aims to increase the already abundant production of meat by various means including reducing the time between births to reach at least three birthing times a year.

Suffolk

The Suffolk breed was created in England near the end of the 18th century by crossing Norfolk sheep and Southdown rams.
The fleece is fair, short and thick and produces excellent knitting wool. The head and legs of the Suffolk are characteristically without wool and covered in fine, shiny black hairs. Worldwide, especially in the past 10 or twenty years, the Suffolk breed, along with the French Charolais and the Dutch Texelaar, has gained an excellent reputation as a breeding partner that can improve the production of first class meat. Its genetic value can also be well noted in some areas of Italy, in the breeding of cross-breeds as well as pure ones.
In Mugello the Suffolk breed, thanks to a group of Suffolk enthusiasts, has made its home and is being reared and bettered, and is gaining recognition in the Libro Genealogico (pedigree listings) of the Ministry. Some of the results of the selection process: rams that weigh 130 kg, ewes of 80 kg, and 90 day old lambs that weigh 35 kg.


CONSUMER INFORMATION - "Look for and choose Mugello meat"

When shopping in traditional butcher shops, the consumer must look for a label, hanging in sight near the counter. The label must hold information on the origin of the meat, and a sort of document released by the butcher which allows the consumer to trace the meat by stating the name of the breeder.                                                                                                                                                    
Organic meat is labelled with information regarding the organic breeding process, the I.D. and sex of the animal, as well as the age at butchering, the weight of the carcass, the breeding farm, the date and place of butchering.

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