Emmanuelle Ducros 08:54, 05 December 2023

Every morning after the 8:30 a.m. news, Emmanuelle Ducros unveils her "Journey into Absurdity" to listeners, from Monday to Thursday.

The agricultural cooperative of the Sarthe that raises the chickens of Loué, the Cafel, has announced its intention to close 200 chicken coops in France out of the 2600 it has.

Loué's chickens, red label chickens, are facing a sharp drop in sales. A decline of 5 to 7% for the year 2023, which is not over, after a drop of 8% last year.

For farmers, it has become complicated: animal feed has increased a lot, as has everything else, energy, transport. More expensive poultry are hard to sell. In two years, the consumption of red label chickens has fallen from 126 million animals to 95 million in France. One of the failures of the "move upmarket", often presented as THE solution for our agriculture.
However, chicken consumption has not decreased.

On the contrary. It continues to increase, +5% in 2022. France has become the leading consumer country in Europe! 15 chickens per year per person.

But what happens then? Why are these red label chickens no longer selling?

Don't look for noon to 14 p.m.: inflation has forced consumers to make choices. Households had initially given up beef, for poultry. But very quickly, top-of-the-range chicken, a red label, was replaced for many households by entry-level cuts, first French, then imported. A downward shift in consumption in terms of quality.

And what about imports?

Poultry is a symbol of the erosion of food sovereignty. In France, one chicken out of two consumed is imported from Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Thailand or Ukraine. These chickens mainly serve canteens, sandwich shops and restaurants: 75% of the poultry eaten there comes from elsewhere.

But until recently, the chickens that consumers bought themselves, in the supermarket, were French chickens. 85%! When it came to poultry, consumers matched their words with their deeds – we want chicken raised properly, we buy French chicken. Inflation has damaged these good intentions.

The affair of the Loué chickens reveals all our contradictions.

The French want French chicken, but above all not to live next to farms, which have become almost impossible to build. The price of our chickens can also be explained by the insane administrative complexity and crazy elms. This is also what we are paying for today with the closure of red label chicken farms. Production costs 20% and 30% higher than those of our neighbours with equivalent poultry. And the more expensive they are, the harder they are to sell, and here we are again at the beginning of this column.
A chicken-and-egg story that can't be solved.