We are far from the “beef effect”. The drop in the number of cows raised in France is resulting in a “shortage” of French beef, and an increase in imports, the federation of cattle breeders (FNB) warned on Wednesday. “We have the feeling that the situation is getting out of hand,” even declared Bruno Dufayet, the president of the FNB, at a press conference. This specialized federation of the majority union FNSEA brings together producers of suckler cows, that is to say raised for meat.
Against a background of non-replaced retirements, work stoppages and climatic hazards, the herd in France, Europe’s leading beef producer, is contracting: -11% in six years. France has lost 837,000 cows (dairy and suckler) since 2016, including 494,000 suckler cows, detailed the FNB, citing figures from the French Livestock Institute (Idele).
This “decapitalization”, according to the term used in the profession, leads to a “shortage of French beef” even though consumption is stable, underlined Bruno Dufayet.
Imported Polish meat
Result: manufacturers, who slaughter fewer French cows, import meat, especially from Poland, to run their processing plants and supply the national market. According to a note from the FranceAgriMer establishment, beef imports increased, in September 2022, by 15.3% over one year. A quarter of the beef consumed in France is imported, compared to less than 20% a few years earlier.
“Sheep experienced this in the 1980s,” noted Mr. Dufayet, recalling that more than half of the lamb meat consumed in France is now imported. According to the breeder from Cantal, manufacturers are only beginning to worry about the lack of raw material, insofar as slaughterhouses have so far been largely supplied by breeders wishing to part with their animals.
“From now on, the security of supply of each company is at stake”, affirmed Emmanuel Bernard, vice-president of the FNB and president of the bovine section of the interprofession of meat Interbev. The president of the FNB recalled that the fellers had been required for a year to offer them contracts. These would have the merit of “securing the income of producers and the supply” of slaughterhouses. “We will not reverse the trend, but we must try to stop” the decline in livestock, pleaded the breeder.