White muscle mass from the central-east of France 

Although Charolais are said to have frequent birthing problems, this is not the case. Most calves are born healthy without assistance.  (Photo: Thomas Butz)

They stand out, the large, white Charolais cows with their calves in the green pastures. They are originally native to the east of France, more precisely in the département of Saône-et-Loire in Burgundy around the eponymous town of Charolle.

Whether they came to France from Italy with the Roman legions has not been clearly proven. However, they certainly made a name for themselves in their home region as frugal work animals that were satisfied with grass and hay and also provided milk and meat. With their muscle power, they helped the “Galvachers” find work outside their region. Today, Charolais are known, especially among gourmets, for their tender meat with low intramuscular fat content. However, as the animals are very large and heavy at the time of slaughter, they are not found in every meat counter.

When you see the muscle mass of this Charolais bull, it is hardly surprising that the representatives of this breed made a name for themselves as draught animals before they became known for their meat. (Photo: Thomas Butz)

In France, the Charolais beef breed now accounts for 25% of the cattle population. After 1945, they also spread to other parts of the world and were readily used to improve other breeds. Charolais arrived in Switzerland some 30 years ago. At the very first import of live Charolais into Switzerland, there were problems at the border. The import had been approved on the assumption that they were Charolais sheep. Then the big white cattle arrived at the border barrier. After some discussion, they were allowed to enter anyway. 

Although the Charolais are muscular and large, they are ideal for meat production from grass. Their strong herd instinct makes them stay together, which is an advantage, especially on extensive alpine pastures.

The large-framed, heavy animals of the Charolais breed need sustainable pastures or lots of space to convert grass into the best meat. (Photo: provided)

Sources: www.mutterkuh.ch, www.charolais.ch, Michael Brackmann "Das andere Kuhbuch" , www.ventsdumorvan.org, Wikipedia