French farmers now promote “moderate consumption” of meat in an alliance with environmentalists against Mercosur

French President Emmanuel Macron at the inauguration of the Paris Agricultural Show (Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS)
French President Emmanuel Macron at the inauguration of the Paris Agricultural Show (Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS) (POOL/)

It may seem strange, but the main French breeders’ association has launched an advertising campaign calling for moderate consumption of Red meat. The campaign, presented at the Paris Agricultural Show, which is held until March 5, advocates for a sustainable and responsible consumption of red meat. Producers fear losing customers to environmental activism and foreign suppliers offering meat at lower prices.

At the most important event in the French agricultural world, the Interbev (Interprofessional for Breeders) set up a large stand to talk about flexitarianisma regime that promotes a menu with many vegetables and carbohydrates and little meat.

The campaign is an attempt to show the moderate consumption of meat from quality production as a form of activism in favor of the environment. The advertising slogan is “Aimez la viande, mangez-en mieux” (Enjoy the meat, eat it better).

“We are not here to impose one type of diet or another. Flexitarianism, for us, means giving us the option to eat what we want, which means that we can eat meat in a modest proportion, below what the WHO recommends,” says Emmanuel Bernard, representative of Interbev’s cattle section.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating less than 500 grams of red meat a week. “The average Frenchman eats 300 grams a week,” recalls Bernard.

Loss of sales

French farmers are concerned about the effect of two movements affecting their market. On the one hand, the increase in the vegetarian and vegan population. On the other, the large influx of meat produced at a lower cost outside Europe.

Currently, more than a quarter of the beef consumed in France comes from foreign countries, mostly of South American origin. As a consequence, in the last five years the number of livestock farms in France has decreased by 12%.

With this perspective, the livestock sector pressures the Government of Emmanuel Macron so that it does not sign the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur.

“We are not against international trade, that is clear. But we want relationships on an equal footing. French farming is committed to a social pact that takes into account respect for the environment, the welfare of animals. They are very important elements for European consumers. And today there is no guarantee that these things will be taken into account by South American farmers. So of course we are against such an agreement. We have to protect our producers, because it costs more to produce in good conditions”, defends Bernard.

The current text of the agreement between the European Union provides for export quotas for South American countries that should increase the amount of beef sold by Mercosur countries by 50%. Currently, the South American bloc exports almost 200,000 tons of beef a year to Europe.

Fair trade groups criticize Mercosur cattle

The signing of the trade agreement also upsets the sector committed to sustainable food production. Julie Maisonhauterepresentative of the collective Commerce Equitable Franceunderscores the possibility that these products cause deforestation in other parts of the world or use slave labor.

“We compete with products that are not the same, with very different production costs. In South America we have gigantic farms, sometimes with production conditions that would not be accepted in Europe from an environmental, labor or pesticide point of view.”

He underlines the recent increase in deforestation in the Amazon caused by livestock production and affirms that “it is not understood what good this agreement can bring to Europe or South America.”

France should impose new requirements

At the inauguration of the Agricultural Show on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron assured that he will only sign the trade pact between the European Union and Mercosur if South American countries respect certain environmental and sanitary production standards.

At the beginning of February, the French Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, had already declared that the country was not happy with the current terms and wanted to include in the agreement the reciprocity of environmental standards, especially in relation to livestock.

The compromise, which should have been signed in 2019, seems to take time to negotiate. For the text to enter into force, the 27 member countries of the bloc must ratify the document.

Originally Posted by RFI

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