- French Cheeses
- Quality of cheese
- The French way of life
France brings together key factors for sustainable dairy farming – a temperate climate, fertile soils, quality fodder crops, variety of breeds, skilled farmers.
As far back as history goes, France has been a land of milk. Milk is produced everywhere in France! A temperate climate and ample rainfall make ideal conditions for pastures and fodder crops, the basis of sustainable farming. Over half of France’s surface area is given over to farming, with 12 million hectares of pasture spread out over 551,500km², or 20% of the French territory.
With a herd of 30 to 120 cows on an average area of 90 hectares, French farms are family-run businesses on a human scale. Larger farms are often run by 2 to 3 farmers who work together to ensure better control and organisation of the herd. They ensure the well-being of their animals and protect their health through individual monitoring.
4 billion euro have been invested over a five-year period to modernise farms – fitting out barns for improved animal comfort and for storing and spreading manure and slurry.
Cows graze outdoors from April to October, or for over six months in the year. Their food is essentially based on the fresh grass of the pasture.
Over 80% of cow feed is made up of fodder and cereals grown and harvested on the farm, which makes it easier to trace. This autonomy is possible because French dairy farms have enough meadows and fields to feed the herd – about 0.5 to 1.5 hectares are needed to feed a cow.
French dairy farms are engaged in the national charter of good farming practices, established in 1999. This charter implies compliance with specific criteria beyond regulations – traceability and identification of animals, health of the herd, quality of feed, milk quality control, good hygiene practices, well-being and animal health, respect for the environment. An auditing mechanism ensures smooth running of the programme at all levels.
A grazed meadow provides net carbon capture of 500kg per hectare per year. Works estimate the non-market equivalent of environmental services associated with a meadow (carbon capture, water filtration, pollination, cultural services including landscape amenities) as €600 per hectare per year, excluding production services.
Three breeds make up most of the French herd – the Holstein Friesian, Montbéliarde and Normande. However, professionals are making efforts to protect biodiversity and as such, are supporting the reintroduction of mountain breeds for the most part - Abondance, Tarentaise, Brown Swiss, Salers, Aubrac, etc.