Originally from Scotland, the Aberdeen Angus breed of cattle is justifiably world-renowned for the tenderness and flavour of its meat. In Mallorca, a pioneering enterprise is producing this beef through sustainable means. Soledad Bescós visits the Son Mayol farm.
The rural area of Establiments on the outskirts of Palma has become a popular destination for the most sophisticated and demanding of palates, thanks to a company called Ecocultius Son Mayol. Founded in 2008, the Son Mayol enterprise has set up a new poultry, agricultural and cattle farm, based on the principles of sustainability, quality, and 100% local and natural production. Its Swiss owner bought this extraordinary 80 hectare estate in order to spend long periods of time on the island, but his sensibility made him consider recovering age-old rural traditions. The drive up to the main house is incredible: there are cows, asses, geese, almond trees, vines, a lake and a seemingly never-ending string of statues of Chinese warriors and terracotta horses which appear to be protecting the house and its surroundings.
The company works with the philosophy that every square metre of the four-hundred-year-old estate, which the previous owner had completely abandoned, must be given a proper use. Manuel Romero explains: “If we come across a fig tree we make jam, if we come across almond trees we collect the almonds, and if we find empty spaces we plant vines, and if those don’t take to the soil, we plant olive trees.”
The first animals – 20 pregnant cows, one calf and a European champion stud bull – arrived from Munich in 2008 all together, to make the most of the transport: “We are anti-transport and we only use local produce and resources,” Manuel says. At the moment there are more than 200 head of cattle, all genetically the best in the world, and there are calves born to mothers who were themselves born on the farm and have Spanish passports. “Many people thought we would never succeed, but this kind of cattle is very adaptable to any place or climate, their skin’s black pigment allows them to withstand high temperatures, they are very easy to breed and have a very highly developed maternal instinct. They are all-terrain animals.” The calves feed on their mother’s milk for ten months and then they are separated from their mother.
The cattle live in completely natural surroundings, and graze freely on a huge area of land. They also feed on alfalfa, straw, rye and organic barley – all from a farm in Son Ferriol. This breed takes longer to grow, so the farm lets them eat and grow in their own time: “When they are around 18 months old they are ready to be slaughtered. We take them to the municipal slaughterhouse where they sleep the night to ensure they are not stressed when they’re slaughtered the next day, under supervision of the local council. We then collect the meat and take it to be hung and matured. The longer it rests, the more weight a piece will lose and the more tender it will be.” After it has matured and been quartered, they make sausages, hamburgers, meatballs, stews, ribs, meat pies and most of all, they prepare meat to be sold by weight. No preservatives or colourings are added, so some of their products are sold frozen so that they can always have them in stock.
So who are their customers? People who buy here want to know where their food is coming from. “We sell a very exclusive, natural and quality product direct to a consumer with a medium-to-high spending power,” says Romero. “Our target market is the family from down the road who comes every week to buy half-a-kilo of minced meat, a kilo of Roti and a few fillets – and not the millionaire who buys a sirloin steak twice a year. In fact the sirloin literally sells itself and we usually have a waiting list of about 12 people for it. Our production of finer cuts is small as we need to supply a great deal of restaurants.” Restaurants serving Son Mayol beef include La Cuchara, Flor de Sal, Es Muntan de Establiments, and Es Passeig in the Port of Sóller, and their creativity knows no bounds; one of these establishments even serves an Angus hamburger which changes twice a year.
Manuel explains that they also do home deliveries and that they personalize orders, as there are customers who want their meat to be cured on Son Mayol’s premises. The finer cuts (sirloin) are all sold to private customers. It is a very special and unique product and its sale becomes quite an occasion: “Customers are treated personally and privately and a visit to the farm can take more than half-an-hour, as they often come here to collect sirloin steaks they have been waiting three weeks for, and it turns into a kind of celebration.” Manuel adds: “Just for coming all the way here, they deserve our undivided attention.” He also tells me customers like to ask about the cattle and to make jokes about when the bulls get their treat, as each bull has a herd of 40 cows.
The latest delicacy to be introduced on the farm is Bresse breed chickens from France. These chickens have blue feet, white feathers and a red crest – the colours of the French flag. The farm director tells me: “It has been very difficult to bring them here to develop them as a local product, because the French did not want their genes to leave the country. But we finally managed to get them and hope to start selling them commercially in 2012.”
Future projects include a wine, an organic olive oil and even pre-cooked meals such as Angus bolognaise or lasagna. Their aim is to promote local produce to the best of their ability, even if the product in question is also a gourmet one.
Finca Can Mayol,
Camí Can Maiol s/n,
Tel. +34 971 765 872