France’s Environmental Minister Urges Cutting Meat From French Cuisine
France is currently experiencing a food renaissance as the meat-and-cheese-dominated country dips a toe into plant-based options nationwide. The country, whose cuisine is founded on a heavily animal-based diet, is being pushed by petitions and government representatives to adopt plant-based or vegetable-forward food to promote sustainability. According to The Guardian, meat will soon be removed from school lunch menus at least one day a week.
The plant-based proposals come from French Environment Minister Barabara Pompili, who believes that its the country’s responsibility to change the food supply structure to reach net-zero emissions. She believes that by promoting plant-based foods and minimizing the need for the meat industry in France, the country would experience a boost to the economy while benefiting the environmental and personal health of France and the world.
“Developing a vegetarian menu offer is about freedom as much as ecology,” Pompili said. “Vegetarians must be able to find menus that cater to their needs in their canteens. This is especially true for young people, among whom the proportion of vegetarians is twice as high as the rest of the population.”
The climate and resilience bill is being pushed through the French parliament to gauge its potential and overall impact on the country’s food supply systems. Although the bill proposal is facing significant pushback from French traditionalists, it has also been welcomed by a large portion of the population, especially in the younger age ranges.
Currently going through examination in the higher chamber of the country’s parliament, the bill includes a mandate that requires one vegetarian menu a week in schools as well as a daily choice in all state-run canteens. Beyond this, the bill includes a stipulation that demands that by 2024 60 percent of the meat served in mass catering must meet requirements that will lead to cutting down meat imports.
“[About] 15 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 91 percent of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest are linked to livestock farming,” the minister continued. “So developing a vegetarian offer means acting for the climate, against deforestation, while giving canteens more room to purchase high-quality, locally produced meat that is better for the environment. Everyone wins.”
Pompili recognizes the difficulty France will have altering its cuisine, claiming that it will be a “culture shift” for French citizens. Regardless of the difficulty, some French citizens and companies have accepted the necessity and started moving toward vegetable-forward or plant-based alternatives. Recently, cell-cultured Foie Gras received funding from the French government and European Commission, giving the green light to a new animal-free industry alternative. The cultivated meat company, Gourmey, is pushing French cuisine to drop animal-based ingredients, believing its Foie Gras alternative will encourage the French to consider the potential of cultivated protein.
“The ambition is that in many places cultivated foie gras not only will be the best option, but it will be the only option,” Co-founder of Gourmey Nicolas Morin-Forest said to Bloomberg.
Morin-Forest also hopes that his startup can produce foie gras at reasonable costs, allowing Gourmey’s product to reach price parity quicker than other forms of cell-based or plant-based alternative products. The cultured foie gras could potentially reach price parity as cultivated and plant-based products become cheaper to produce, but also at a faster rate since it is considered a premium product, according to Bloomberg.
The growing acceptance within France reflects both the personal and governmental push to combat climate change and enhance sustainability across the globe. Although not immediately, the heavy meat-eating country is steadily shifting and Pompili believe that this urgency will be recognized and greener and more sustainable options will gain popularity and acceptance.
“We are trying to bring about a culture shift for French people – we want the environment to be a reflex for people. Every single person in France can play a role in environmental protection. This is about people’s daily lives,” she stated.