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Retinto Meats

Origin and Present

The Retinta is one of the three pure breeds of cattle native to Spain. Its origin is in the ethnic cattle trunk called "Rojo Convexo" (Bos taurus turdetanus), which arrived in prehistoric times from the Middle East to the southwest of Europe. Over time, it resulted in several Spanish breeds, among them, the Retinta. This breed scattered through the southern half of the Iberian peninsula, giving rise to three local cattle varieties, the Colorada Extremeña,  the Retinta Andaluza, and the Rubia Gaditana; it is from the fusion of these three that the improved version of the breed we know today comes from.

This is a species with high adaptation to its environment, hence its "bison-like" morphology, similar to wild animals. Also significant are its robustness, strong horns, and especially the deep red color of its coating, which inspires its name.

At present, the Retinta has a national census of approximately 200,000 heads, making it the second largest census of native breeds in all of Spain, and the predominant breed in the southwestern quadrant of the peninsula. The province of Cadiz is at the head of Andalusia in number of cattle, with more than 6,000 heads, in 117 farms.

Natural rearing

The Retinta has traditionally enjoyed an extensive rearing system in its natural habitat, the dehesa. The province of Cadiz undoubtedly stands out for having one of the most sizeable livestock sectors in Spain. In Cadiz, the Retinta is a key element of the beautiful landscape of dehesa-type forest of Cork Oaks and meadows, in regions such as the Sierra (mountains), Campo de Gibraltar or La Janda, where indeed livestock farming bears significant weight in the economy.

The dehesa is a natural environment of open Mediterranean forest, as well as a unique ecosystem in the world, where animals within it contribute to its balance and play an important role as shapers of its vegetation. Cattle is raised in freedom, feeding solely on the land’s resources throughout the year, with grass, shrubs, branches and acorns. Only in the harshest of times is it necessary to recur to natural animal feed.

This traditional rearing system is still applied today, and the Retinta serves as an example of a production system that is respectful of the environment and its genetic heritage. The selection and breeding developed in recent decades have improved the quality of meat production, animal morphology, and reproductive traits, but all of this without losing the rustic element involved and the extensive farming system in which the activity unfolds. This natural feeding, added to the genetic characteristics of the Retinta itself, are the basis of the excellent quality of the meat it produces.

A guaranteed brand

Precisely in light of this uniqueness, and to help make the benefits of Retinto meat better known, as well as ensuring the quality and authenticity of the product, 1993 saw the birth of the Asociación Nacional de Criadores de Ganado Vacuno Selecto Raza Retinta (ACRE, or the National Association of Breeders of Select Retinta Cattle). And along with it came the official "Carne de Retinto" brand, authorized by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and E.U. Regulation.

Traceability control systems by means of labeling and registration of animals, carcasses and cuts, serve as absolute guarantee and control at all stages of production.

Considering the age and sex of animals before slaughter, the following types can be distinguished within the "Carne de Retinto" brand:

  • Ternera blanca (White veal): male or female animal destined for slaughter with a maximum age of 8 months. Fed mainly on mother’s milk and natural resources of the area.
  • Ternera (Veal): male or female animal destined for slaughter, aged between 8 months and a day and 12 months. Fed mainly from mother’s milk and natural resources of the area, admitting feed supplements approved by the ACRE.
  • Añojo (Yearling): male or female animal destined for slaughter, aged between 12 months and a day and 24 months, fed with feed authorized by the ACRE.
  • Novillo or Novilla (Steer or Heifer): male or female animal destined for slaughter, aged between 24 months and a day and 48 months, fed with feed authorized by the ACRE.
  • Cebón (Fattened beef): castrated male destined for slaughter with a maximum age of 48 months, fed with feed authorized by the ACRE.
  • Buey (Ox): castrated male destined for slaughter with a minimum age of 48 months and one day, fed with feed authorized by the ACRE.
  • Vaca (Cow): female animal destined for slaughter with a minimum age of 48 months and one day, fed with feed authorized by the ACRE.
  • Toro (Bull): male animal destined for slaughter with a minimum age of 48 months and one day, fed with feed authorized by the ACRE.

The most marketed product under the Carne de Retinto brand is the añojo retinto. Its meat is tender, juicy, tasty and with an intense pink color, quite different from the common, pale and watery, industrial-type meats.

Culinary uses

In general, it can be said that Retinto meat is excellent cooked directly on the grill, but it is also ideal for use in many typical local dishes, such as Pimientos del Piquillo rellenos de carne (Piquillo peppers stuffed with meat), Hatillos de rabo de añojo (Yearling tail bundles), Brochettes, Ropa Vieja (literally "old clothes"; a dish made with beef stew leftovers), Redondo mechado (Stuffed Rumpsteak), Ternera estofada a la albahaca (Veal braised with basil), and so on...

Still, as with all meats, it is important to distinguish the cut or the part of the animal from which the meat is taken, since the different cuts may serve a variety of specific applications:

  • For roasting: lomo bajo, rabillo de cadera, redondo and llana (sirloin, hip steak, rumpsteak and a part just under the shoulder clod).
  • In puchero and cocido (chickpea, meat and vegetable stew): morcillo, falda and aguja (shanks, skirt steak and chuck roll).
  • In stews and casseroles: contra, espaldilla, aguja, aleta, carrillada and rabo (Silverside/flat, shoulderclod, chuck, blade, cheek and tail).
  • For grilling: lomo, solomillo and costillar (loin, sirloin and ribs).
  • For grilling or frying: puntas de solomillo, babilla, tapilla, tapa and aguja, (tenderloin tips, rump skirt, topside and chuck).
  • For breading: tapa, babilla, contra and vacío (topside, rump skirt, silverside and flank).
 
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