Farming serves the community in many ways

Farming is a key stakeholder in rural territories, contributing to jobs and rural life, promoting heritage, maintaining the countryside, preserving biodiversity, and more.


To identify and quantify the services provided by farming to different areas, CNIEL is co-chairing a working group set up in 2011 by the Elevages Demain (“Farming Tomorrow”) scientific interest group.

This group has launched research aiming to develop useful key indicators for measuring the benefits of farming, studying the interactions between these different services and assessing their importance to the different areas being considered (plains, mountains, etc.).

The results of this initial research are expected shortly and should lead to proposals for further research.



Driving the economy

The dairy industry: a key driver of the French economy

Representing revenues of more than €29 billion and 298,000 jobs, the French dairy industry is one of the spearheads of the national economy. It generates one fifth of agrifood revenues, ranking after meat.

An industry spread across the country, driving the regional economy

The dairy industry represents 298,000 jobs spread across every region of France, including “fragile” rural areas.

Milk Collection in France - MAP

150,000 direct jobs in dairy farming

On average, a dairy farm employs two people full time

Five indirect jobs for every direct job

Farming services, laboratories, animal feed, animal health, etc.

56,500 direct jobs in dairy processing

A vast network of 650 processing companies spread across the country


High-performance dairy companies

With both cooperatives and private companies, the dairy industry generates revenues of €27.2 billion.

It operates in 80% of French departments through a vast network of companies of all sizes, including both global leaders and small to medium enterprises.

Small companies are especially present in Franche-Comté and Rhône-Alpes, due to these regions’ tradition of collecting and processing milk through “fruitières” (cooperative village cheese producers).

Many major groups are world-class brands and generate a substantial part of their revenues internationally.


Five French dairy groups rank among the 25 global leaders

Top 25

An asset for rural tourism

Nadine, a farmer in Midi-Pyrénées

“By talking with the holidaymakers that come to see us, they become aware that the countryside they’re looking at is also my work tool, and it’s my work that enables it to be preserved.”




Farming creates and preserves landscapes

By occupying and increasing the value of meadows, dairy cows prevent fields from lying fallow, thus giving French landscapes their unique variety of forms.

In the mountains, cows even prepare ski slopes for winter! In the plains, hedges and fields represent a real source of biodiversity and make the countryside more attractive, as illustrated by the characteristic Normandy woodland.


1,800 educational farms throughout France

Farmers enjoy receiving holidaymakers and school children in their regions. Many farm visits are offered in season to enable people to discover their work and different production methods, and to share their passion.





The Auvergne PDO cheese route
An initiative of the PDO industry, making tourism and the land go hand in hand!

Respecting the environment

Farming and the land: a natural balance

Farming preserves the ecological balance of our land.


Meadows provide dairy herds with natural feed and have a direct impact on the quality of milk produced. Acting as carbon sinks, meadows offset a third of greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farming. Finally, they protect the soil from erosion, absorb floodwater and filter water.

Cereals and oilcake are the second largest source of...

The dairy herd


Dairy animals play a critical role in maintaining the balance between farms and the countryside.

  • They maintain the landscape: by grazing, cows maintain grasslands, including difficult-to-reach surfaces such as mountains.
  • They promote plant diversity: by trampling over the ground, herds eliminate invasive plants and spread the seeds of certain species.
  • They...
Hedges and banks
Hedges and banks


Hedges and banks also help to preserve the environment.

  • They limit the erosion of soil.
  • They shelter all sorts of animals and insects, promoting biodiversity.
  • They improve the quality of water by trapping and eroding nitrates and pesticides.
  • They contribute to the beauty of French landscapes (Normandy woodland, etc.).
The dairy herd
Hedges and banks
Hedges and banks

An industry that supports diversity

Diverse land

France’s temperate climate, good rainfall and vast open spaces make France a true “dairy country”. The diversity of contours and types of land has produced a multitude of areas suitable for dairy farming. Throughout history, the sector has developed countless skills in processing milk, such as in Brittany, where people added sea salt to butter to conserve it longer.

A wide variety of landscapes

The dairy industry protects biodiversity by maintaining vast surfaces of grassland, which create vibrant open landscapes.

The Savoy mountain pastures, the marshes of Western France and the Normandy woodlands represent cultural, ecological and economic assets that are intimately linked to the work of farmers.

More than 1,500 different dairy products

Soft, cooked and pressed cheeses, salted butter, creams… This wide diversity of dairy products comes from specific regional features that people have cleverly exploited. This is what makes France’s reputation as a dairy country!

Practical measures engaging every industry stakeholder

Collective industry action to…

Limit the impact on the environment

The French pollution control programme (Programme de Maîtrise des Pollutions d’Origine Agricole  or PMPOA) was launched in 1994 to help dairy farms meet environmental standards.

Farm responsibly

An environmental section was added to the Charter of Good Agricultural Practices in 2012. To date, 95% of farmers have signed this charter.

Farmers committed to…

Limiting energy costs

Farmers use several tricks to limit their energy consumption. They sometimes produce renewable energy on their farms.

Preserving water quality

In vulnerable areas, farmers have improved their crop fertilization practices by reducing the use of chemical products and storing animal waste to be able to spread it at the right time.

Managing pollution

With nitrates and greenhouse gasses, farming has often been accused of causing pollution, and yet water quality is improving while carbon emissions are dropping regularly.

Processors engaged in…

Limiting their carbon emissions

Milk transportation attracts a lot of attention, especially in environmental terms. Dairies optimize their collection rounds to limit carbon emissions. In this way, 30 million km of travel were avoided in France in 2012.

Saving water

Factory cleaning processes require water. Processing plants are therefore designed to optimize water consumption.

Some 20% of water volume has been saved over the last 10 years.

Managing energy

Many manufacturers have limited their energy consumption by installing energy-efficient machines. Some have even decided to produce their own renewable energy. In this way, 8% savings on fuel and gas were made in 2012.

Respecting the raw material

Dairy processing plants add value to all the milk collected from farmers. Whether they manufacture consumer products or ingredients for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, nothing is wasted!

Encouraging results

2012: extension of the Kyoto protocol

Reduce greenhouse gasses by 20% or even 30% by 2020 compared to 1990.

The objective for milk has been reached and is even in the process of being exceeded!

  • Carbon footprint of milk: -20% in 20 years (since 1990)
  • In 2010: -7 million tonnes of carbon emissions thanks to the efforts undertaken


A key challenge: developing evaluation methods

Assessing the dairy industry’s impact on the environment is a source of debate: carbon footprint, water footprint, biodiversity indicators, etc.

Calculation methods are being developed in France and worldwide. The objective is to provide dairy professionals with self-assessment tools so that they can reduce their impact on the environment.

CNIEL experts are spearheading work carried out within international organizations such as the Food and Agricultural Organization and the International Dairy Federation.

Pleasure and good health for all

Dairy products: good for everyone’s health

Dairy products meet the needs of consumers paying increasing attention to their health, by offering excellent nutritional quality at a moderate cost.

Three dairy products
a day!

This is what INPES, the French National Institute for Prevention and Health Education, recommends for staying in good health.

Milk’s nutritional content includes:

  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Water
  • Fat
  • Vitamins
  • Lactose

Part of the daily diet

It is no secret that the French consume a lot of dairy products!

These products contribute to the French diet from birth.

  • 89% of households consume cheese at least once a week
  • 71% yoghurts 
  • 62% milk
  • 59% butter

Milk: ideal for drinking after sport!

Milk contains proteins, which regenerate the muscles after physical activity.

The water contained in milk helps to rehydrate the body, while carbohydrates rebuild energy reserves.

It is also worth remembering that milk provides vitamins, minerals and calcium.

Milk is more effective than certain energy drinks and much cheaper!

A rich gastronomic heritage

Traditional products and constant innovation

The French dairy industry is skilled at meeting consumers’ many needs.

It continues producing traditional PDO cheeses, especially in vulnerable regions.

It also shows strength by innovating continuously.

  • 50 French dairy products carry the French Protected Designation of Origin (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) label
  • France is ranked third worldwide in terms of innovation.


Map of the French Protected Designation of Origin (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) labels



Dairy products as part of the French cultural identity

Consumed for thousands of years, dairy products are part of the French heritage, land and culture.Consommés depuis des milliers d’années, les produits laitiers sont inscrits dans notre patrimoine, nos territoires, notre culture.
According to CSA research in 2009, dairy products are the France’s third most popular type of food.