The price of Breton Draft Foals is currently going crazy. The market is boosted by Japan where this meat is considered a delicacy. Faced with the phenomenon, an anxiety grips the sector. That of seeing the lure of gain undermine a whole genetic heritage.
In breeders’ memories, we had never seen that. “Twenty years ago, we had good prices, but not like today,” said a seventy-year-old owner. Some foals are now selling for € 1,900, whereas a few years ago. “We estimated a good sale between € 450 and € 500,” recalls a breeder.
Between 160 and 200 € per kilo in Japan
Over the last ten years, the number of Breton draft horse births decreased from 4,000 to 2,300. This loss of almost half of the births between 2007 and 2017 is partly explained by a poor valuation and an aging population at breeders. To counter this and revive the industry, the associations of French equine breeds then created the Société française des équidés de travail ( French Society of Working Equids) aka the SFET. The company made contact with Japanese buyers, the latter being great lovers of basashi (horse meat) for a very long time. “They consume it in sushi and consider it quality a bit like the famous Kobe beef. The meat of draft horses is a luxury meat.
The popularity of which see the market value of a kilo of meat to be between 160 and 200 € in the land of the Rising Sun. “informs Marie Foucquier, head of Equid’Export, a commercial subsidiary of SFET.
After a difficult start, the market really took off in 2016. Last year, 400 foals were shipped to Japan and 800 in 2018. “We went from 1.30 € per kilo five-six years ago. , more than 4 € today. In some cases, we even came close to € 5, “says Julie Gobert, director of the National Association of Breton draft horse.
Once in Japan, foals are not slaughtered right away. They are fattened on site because the Japanese love meat ribbed with fat.
“We must maintain genetic diversity”
The National Association of Breton draft horse in its desire to increase the popularity of the specie may instead have doomed it. Trying to make it popular by selling the horse meat should not come as a surprise, it is common in France to eat horse meat.
On the one hand, it’s a good thing, says the manager. “Today, animals are valued at the price they should have been for a long time. It is remunerative for the breeder, which was not the case before. On the other hand, the speed of the price increase is considered worrying. “Since there has been such a black period before, breeders may be tempted to sell everything to take advantage of the windfall, because you never know how long it will last. And if we sell everything, we lose our selection base. We must maintain genetic diversity. The concern is that you lose a flock quickly.”
A black spot already appears: “We may end up with a shortage of stallions,” says Julie Gobert. “Those who bought small males to breed can no longer follow financially Japanese buyers. The breeder should want to buy at the same price as the meat market, or more. Some are ready to do it, but there are not many … ”
For 2019, the ramp-up should continue. In its forecast, the SFET has programmed the export of 1,000 to 1,500 horses to Japan.
In 2017, Japan also imported 2765 live horses from Canada. However the majority of the horses imported to Japan come as frozen meat, with 5.460 tons that same year.