Focus on our annual conference : Recovering from the breeding crisis using innovation

On 4 July, a conference revisited the news topics of our sector with a theme called "Recovering from the breeding crisis using innovation". It revolved around the following 2 roundtable discussions:

  • a "situation report" roundtable
  • an "outlook and prospects" roundtable.


1st roundtable discussion

Healthcare governance and the healthcare situation in France – benefits to be developed[1]

During a presentation by Jean-Luc Angot of the CGAAER - Ministry of agriculture, food and forestry, the latter recalled the excellent "healthcare governance" of France in confronting the issue of epizootics and the advantages in terms of the diversity of food-producing land resources and its healthcare situation. In particular, he pointed out the contribution of the "Réseau Français pour la Santé Animale" (French network for animal health) that is used to provide a rapid response to the emergence of animal diseases in France, as demonstrated by its fast reaction to the FCO or SBV (Schmallenberg virus). In particular, this was made possible thanks to the public-private partnership best practices implemented within this network.

Competitiveness of the poultry and pig breeding sectors within the European context, the position of France[2]


The difficulties, which are currently being experienced by the French poultry and pig breeding sectors, actually reflect a drop in competitiveness in relation to their immediate German, Belgian, Dutch and Polish rivals for the poultry sector and their German and Spanish rivals for the pig breeding sector.


They are due to a number of factors, including the following:

  • the reduction in the difference in technical performance compared with France that is still among the leaders of the sector;
  • significant investments in breeding (construction of new buildings or major reorganisation of old buildings) and in the industrial sector (new or modernised abattoirs with a high level of automation) particularly in Germany and Spain;
  • significant coordination between the different links of the sector (strong partnership, drafting of contracts, integration) and implementation of the new potential avenues for the future offered by genomics (multi-criteria selection).

What's more, the change in customer expectations and the demand for intermediate food products ("PAI") and the production of sophisticated products is on the increase, regardless of the type of meat under consideration, on the one hand. On the other hand, expectations in the area of animal well-being (egg, foie gras, pork, etc.), a reduction in the use of chemical molecules and an increased use in natural substances are also required (rabbit, pork, etc.) The competitiveness of the sectors also concerns the capacity to fulfil the requirements of the consumer.


French dairy and beef sectors: beyond the crises, what is the outlook?[3]

The French dairy farmers have been experiencing a significant crisis since last year and they have been followed by the beef producers. The revenues of the French dairy farmers dropped by half in 2015.

What is the future for the French milk sector faced with the upsurge of the sector in northern Europe, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland or even Germany?

The strengths of the French sector outweigh its weaknesses by far. In France, the organisation of the sector is unique: 55% of the transformation is done by private businesses, whose priority is to offer products that often have a high added value and are largely intended for the domestic market. However, the French dairy sector exports 40% of its production largely to the other European countries with 10% going to overseas markets. However, in this case, it largely concerns "commodities".

Another feature of the French market is the diversity of the systems, which adapt to a diversity of soil climate conditions and the contractual relations of the sectors. The French dairy farms are often made up of collectives of equal partners. Another unique feature are the controls placed on the structures which constrain any sudden changes in the price of land. These original features are a positive force for the future, but can also have negative effects in terms of the targeting of investments, for example, or even certain managerial difficulties. The reorganisation of the dairy sector has been continuing at a rate of 3.7%/year over the last 15 years. The issue is therefore to correct the weaknesses in order to prepare the systems, training, advice and relations of the sectors of tomorrow.

The hazards, be they climatic, sanitary or economic, are not on the decrease. The priority is therefore to design the most resilient systems possible. Every operational manager must be able to clearly identify their own business strategy, according to their life objectives. The search for gains in productivity will remain a necessity, even if it will take a different route depending on the systems chosen. Within this context, healthcare prevention strategies have a significant contribution to make, particularly in the area of vaccinations. Indeed, perinatal losses, for example, are still substantial in the ruminant sectors leading to a significant loss in value. Similarly, the EcoAntibio plan is a significant constraint that must be converted into an opportunity.

Food system, consumer expectations and animal products[4]

How do changes in food behaviour and social representations substantially modify the consumption of animal products (meat, milk, eggs)?

These products were a fundamental component of the food production model of the last few years. They are increasingly being called into question by the increase in the "healthcare" value through "sustainable development" and the affirmation of animalism. More significantly, the consumption of these products changes under the influence of changing social relations (urbanisation, increase in the wage earning population, feminisation, ageing, "particular food habits"), changing relationships with time (less time devoted to cooking and meals, new ways of life, search for convenience) and changing relationships with space (mobility, mobile living, practical food produce and assistance intermediaries). Consequently, the food system is constantly changing as a result of more general transformations in society and ways of living. These changes can often be perceived as temporary, negative and unsettling crises and as developments which need to be opposed. Instead, they should be seen as normal, everyday changes in our relations with animals and food.

2nd roundtable discussion

The main consumer expectations[5]

Switching from "techno push" to "market pull"

Elizabeth Pastore-Reiss, managing director of Greenflex, recalled that consumers have strong expectations regarding local produce, quality and animal welfare. Indeed, 59% of the French population claim to put quality before having to pay more[6]. And animal welfare is a subject that is of concern to 68% of French people when they make their purchasing decisions. Furthermore, 38% of the French population claim to have reduced their meat consumption (+5 points, compared with 2014).

Faced with their distrust regarding politicians and industrialists, "the commitment of industrialists on these issues pays dividends. It recommends a shift from "techno push" (production volumes) to "market pull" (listening to the market). There is a huge shortfall in teaching and explanations regarding innovation.

Perception of the level of exposure of France to health crises[7]

The health crises through the "one Health, one World" concept has revealed a new mode of response through the open innovation system in particular. This new form of innovation has resulted in the creation of public-private or private-private partnerships within businesses that has helped businesses to be more reactive and facilitated academic research to tackle an emerging crisis. Furthermore, academic research using this new mode of innovation has resulted in work on new innovation resources. Thanks to these new methods, we have learnt an enormous amount from old health crises which has meant that currently in France our existing networks have been beefed up to respond more effectively to future crises. For example, these issues are currently being developed within the network using the open innovation system:

  • Understanding the interaction with the microbiome of the pathogenic agent: pathobiome idea
  • Using new strategies to tackle the pathogenic agent host cell interaction
  • Integrating new shared technological tools: genome editing to generate managed mutants for vaccination purposes.


In short, in France, we start from the premise that in order to respond to health crises, multidisciplinary research must be carried out in combination with work on societal acceptance. In particular, these issues are developed within the French network for animal health.


Farms in a changing world[8]

Joël Limouzin, vice-chairman of the FNSEA, pointed out that the agricultural sector must begin a genuine transformation from a policy of supply to a policy of demand. The agricultural world did not react early enough to this. The challenge of "eating locally" must be tackled.

It has been more reluctant regarding GMO-free and antibiotic-free ranges which have stigmatised the other production systems. This is despite the fact that the offer for these products is increasing rapidly in super stores, particularly in the pork sector,


The veterinary profession and the competitiveness of French livestock breeding: advising and adapting[9]

A diversity of livestock breeding systems in France with an increase in the size of farms and hence an increasing amount of information that the veterinary surgeon has to integrate. The needs in terms of innovative high-performance tools (dashboard) and multiple capacities are increasing.

What is the veterinary surgeon's role in a precision system with the emergence of new technologies and multiple forms of data?

The animals that need it must be targeted more effectively using new diagnostic tools and the situations requiring increased prevention, including vaccination, must be identified.

The role of the veterinary surgeon as an adviser must be increased in collaboration with the breeder and he must assist breeding systems on a case-by-case basis. This requires knowledge about the different systems available
The challenge is to produce bespoke solutions, transform the work done by adapting the health advice provided to each breeder and breeding system and be able to adapt to these systems with its objectives and constraints.

New veterinary generations therefore need to be trained to adapt, guide and advise. This will result from a balanced discussion between the breeder and the vet.

[1] Jean-Luc Angot, Conseil général de l'alimentation, de l'agriculture et des espaces ruraux (CGAAER)

[2] Yves Trégaro, FranceAgriMer

[3] Philippe Chotteau, Institut de l’élevage

[4] Bruno  Hérault, Centre d’Etude Prospective (CEP), Ministère de l'agriculture, de l'agroalimentaire et de la forêt

[5] Elisabeth Pastore Reiss, Directrice Générale de Greenflex-Ethicity

[6] Obsoco

[7] Pascal Boireau, Directeur du laboratoire de santé animale, Anses

[8] Joël Limouzin, Vice-Président, Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Exploitants Agricoles (FNSEA)

[9] Christine Fourichon, Enseignant-chercheur à Oniris, Directrice de l’UMR Oniris/Inra BIOEPAR


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