France Shifts Agricultural Focus Back to Conventional Meat Production Amid Rising Food Prices

by Ella

In a notable reversal of its stance on factory farming, France is encouraging its farmers to increase production of cost-effective meat, a move driven by growing inflation that is dampening demand for organic pork, beef, and chicken.

During a recent gathering of major players in the agro-industry sector, France’s Agriculture Minister, Marc Fesneau, emphasized the necessity of addressing the lower end of the meat market. He stated, “We have to admit that we must work on the entry level.” Fesneau went on to highlight the economic challenges, stating, “Animal welfare issues only work if we find someone to pay” for high-quality meat.


These comments represent a significant shift in government policy, as they depart from President Emmanuel Macron’s earlier stance in 2017 when he challenged France’s powerful intensive farming lobby, asserting that it was time to reconsider production that no longer aligned with consumer preferences and needs.


Intensive farming in France has faced mounting pressure over concerns about animal welfare and its environmental impact, particularly in the Brittany region, where Fesneau made his remarks. The region has grappled with issues such as green algae blooms caused by nitrates in fertilizers and waste from intensive pig, poultry, and dairy farming, which have been linked to environmental problems and health hazards.


However, Macron’s vision of elevating France’s status as Europe’s leading beef producer appears to have encountered hurdles, exacerbated by an 11% surge in food inflation that has prompted consumers to turn away from organic meat in favor of more affordable options. Pascale Hébel, a consumption analyst for data consultants C-Ways, noted that “only 30% of French people now have the means to pay more for quality,” compared to half the population six years ago.


This shift in consumer behavior has emboldened France’s major intensive farming groups, who are now pursuing the goal of reasserting standard production. Gilles Huttepain, a senior executive at the poultry giant LDC and a leader of the industry group Anvol, emphasized the need for increased standard chicken production to reclaim the market from imports, as nearly half of the chicken consumed in France is now sourced from abroad.

Despite previous efforts to reduce meat consumption, France remains a nation of avid carnivores, consuming an average of 113 kilograms (approximately 250 pounds) of meat per person annually—nearly twice the global average.

While France had been making strides in reducing the use of cages for egg-laying chickens due to government and consumer pressure, the surge in demand for lower-cost eggs has led to some farmers expressing regret over the shift away from intensive methods.

However, not all in the farming industry view this return to conventional production favorably. Dairy farmer Mathieu Courgeau expressed concerns about reversing progress, stating that continuing to produce cheaper meat without considering hidden social and environmental costs contradicts the challenges the industry faces. Anne Richard of the lobby group Inaporc echoed similar sentiments, suggesting that those who invested in organic production now feel trapped.

The shift in France’s agricultural focus reflects the complex interplay between economic pressures, consumer preferences, and environmental concerns within the nation’s farming industry.



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