Joint declaration – Farm to Fork: it is time to listen to what the data says!
Food chain actors all agree with the main principles set out in the Farm to Fork strategy and are fully aware that constant and substantial improvement must be made to ensure a more sustainable approach for our food systems. Nevertheless, several recently published studies on the Farm to Fork strategy indicate that the current targets, if implemented as proposed, will come at a significant cost for EU farmers and the viability of the entire European agribusiness culture.
The time for political messages around the Farm to Fork strategy has passed. It is now time to analyse the data currently available. In recent months, several key reports and studies have tried to assess and measure the impacts of the targets set by the European Commission when presenting the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies in May 2020.
Studies conducted by the USDA, the HFFA Research, the Joint Research Centre of the EU (JRC), Kiel University as well as Wageningen University and Research (WUR) all conclude that there are several significant impacts, trade-offs and blind spots that urgently need to be considered by policymakers in the EU (and beyond).
- The JRC study predicts that the expected decrease of between 40 and 60% of GHG emissions from European agriculture stemming from the implementation of Farm to Fork targets will lead to outsourcing European agricultural production, including its emissions to third countries.
- The Kiel University study projects that Europe could become a net food importer, in direct contradiction with the open strategic autonomy promoted by the European Commission during the COVID crisis.
- The USDA study concludes that the targets set out in the Farm to Fork strategy could lead to food insecurity for 22 million people.
Why is Europe not looking at the data?
Each of these studies, using different methodologies, with different focal points and limitations all complement each other. They all reach the same conclusions. EU agricultural production will decrease – in some areas and for some products quite drastically. According to the latest WUR study showing an average production decline for the cumulative impact of targets of between 10 – 20% with up to 30% drop for certain crops.
As regards livestock production, the study from the University of Kiel, points to a 20% reduction in EU beef production and a 17% reduction for pork production on average. A further WUR policy paper (soon to be published) confirms an overall decrease in beef, pig and dairy production, leading not only to a price increase for EU consumers but also shows questionable effects on livestock farmers’ incomes.
The data clearly points to impacts on trade, on farmers’ incomes and ultimately on consumer prices. Changing the food system under these conditions will be more difficult, and imposing consumption taxes, as proposed by the European Parliament, could make it socially unjust.
All the actors in the agri-food chain are aware of the environmental and climate challenges we are facing today. We are all committed to playing our part in the fight to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. European agricultural production is among the most resource and environmentally friendly in the world. Nevertheless, European producers believe that, with innovation and further support at the forefront of EU agricultural policy, farmers will continue to produce in an even more sustainable manner. We acknowledge the expectations of society and policymakers within the realm of food production. But “non-data based political targets” will have deleterious effects on European agriculture. We must build solution-oriented policies, based on the data we have to hand, with innovation as their cornerstone.
In order to start talking about solutions, we need to have a common understanding of the challenges we face in pursuing our Farm to Fork objectives. This common understanding should be based on a comprehensive and cumulative impact assessment conducted by the European Commission. The most recent Wageningen study, with its different scenarios, is clearly showing that assessing the effects of Farm to Fork targets in isolation, as the Commission seems to envision doing from now on, will only give a partial picture of the cumulative reality faced by farmers and agri-food players on the ground.
We are as eager as the Commission to end this debate on the necessity of carrying out a cumulative impact assessment. We call for a comprehensive assessment because we want to understand where problems are likely to arise, so that we can discuss the potential solutions.
Europe’s food production model, spearheaded by the Common Agricultural Policy, has been one of the biggest successes of the European Union. We do not understand the apparent attempt to countermand our progress and disregard our successes at a time when our trading partners are already talking about filling the production gaps left vacant by Europe.
In addition, if EU production decreases, as is clearly expected by all the researchers who have assessed the impact of the Commission’s current proposals, then EU imports of agricultural raw materials and ingredients are bound to increase significantly, thus making the EU dependent on imports to feed its population – thus creating several political and food safety risks for European consumers.
It is time the European Commission conducts a holistic impact assessment. The Farm to Fork deadline is looming. Eight years for the agricultural sector is not that long. We urgently need to see concrete proposals and a broader discussion around the choices we are making – but it needs to be based on better data.
 Summary of results Scenario 4: red. pesticide and nutrient use, 10% set aside
Agriculture and Progress – European Platform for Sustainable Agricultural Production
Agri-food Chain Coalition – European agri-food chain joint initiative
AnimalhealthEurope – European Animal Medicines Industry AVEC – European Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade CEFS – European Association of Sugar Manufacturers CEJA – European Council of Young Farmers CEMA – European Agricultural Machinery Industry CEPM – European Confederation of Maize Production CEVI – European Confederation of Independent Winegrowers
CIBE – International Confederation of European Beet Growers Clitravi – Liaison Centre for the Meat Processing Industry in the European Union COCERAL – European association of trade in cereals, oilseeds, pulses, olive oil, oils and fats, animal feed and agrosupply
Copa-Cogeca – European Farmers and Agri-Cooperatives
CropLife Europe- Europe’s Crop Protection Industry
EBB – European Biodiesel Board
EFFAB – European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders ELO – European Landowners’ Organization European Livestock Voice – European Platform of the Livestock Food Chain
Euro Foie Gras – European Federation of foie gras
Euroseeds – European Seed Sector
ePURE – European Renewable Ethanol Industry UECBV – European Livestock and Meat Trades Union
FEFAC – European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation
FEFANA – European Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures
Fertilizers Europe – European Fertilizer Producers
IBC – International Butchers’ Confederation
On the road to foie gras: Discovering European foie gras
Euro Foie Gras is very pleased to announce the launch of its European promotion campaign “On the road to foie gras”. This two-year campaign aims to inform Europeans about the foie gras production process and the different ways to enjoy this European gastronomic product.
Influencers from different European foie gras producing countries will meet farmers in their exploitations. The talented Chefs Matthias Marc and Pierre Chomet, both Top Chef 2021 participants, will travel around France to help us discover this quality dish, so dear to French people. In Spain, Michelin Chef Leandro Gil and TV presenter Ketty Fresneda will take us on a journey to discover the secrets of foie gras in the heart of the producing regions: Castilla y León, Navarre, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Aragon. In Hungary, the famous Chef Wossala Rozina will travel the country to meet duck and goose foie gras producers. And finally, you will have the opportunity to follow Julien Lapraille, former Top Chef 2014 contestant, and Tom Vermeiren, Chef at the Wilford Restaurant, in several farms in Wallonia.
Find out more about their adventures on this website: https://ontheroadtofoiegras.com/! You will also have access to a lot of information about this high-quality food, our producers, our commitment to animal welfare and many recipes that will delight your palate.
This campaign is financed with the support of the European Union via its promotion programme.
Discover foie gras production during Open Farm Days in Wallonia
Looking for an educational and fun activity to do with your family? On 11 and 12 September, 33 Walloon farms will open their doors. Among them, the Louis Legrand farm, a family farm raising ducks for foie gras and growing traditional crops (cereals, beetroot and corn).
The owners, located in Templeuve (Tournai, Belgium), will give you the opportunity to visit their duck farm, access the production installations and even attend a demonstration of assisted feeding. You will then be able to taste the delicious dishes produced from fat palmipeds: smoked magret, duck legs confit with orange, cassoulet with duck confit, the foie gras discovery plate, etc. Fun activities will also delight children and parents alike: horse-drawn carriage ride, wooden games and bouncy castle.
The ducks of the Louis Legrand farm are raised in the open air, a fundamental characteristic of duck foie gras production, and their feed is entirely natural (cereals and corn). The farmers attach great importance to maintaining their know-how and the artisanal quality of their products, thus guaranteeing their freshness and authenticity.
Don’t hesitate to go and meet them this weekend!
More information on the Open Farm Days (in French): https://www.jfo-maquinzaine.be/
Picture: © JFO
Revision of the EU animal welfare legislation: Euro Foie Gras recalls its commitment to high standards
Euro Foie Gras contributed to the European Commission public consultation on the inception impact assessment related to the revision of the EU animal welfare legislation. The Federation recalls that foie gras is produced in full compliance with EU animal welfare standards. Furthermore, the sector follows the latest scientific data and on-farm testing to ensure a constant improvement of the breeding conditions.
Foie gras is a European traditional gastronomic and high-quality product respecting high standards of animal welfare.
The European foie gras sector responds to societal expectations: the production is extensive, outdoor, and very often family based. With 90% of the life of the animal spent outdoors, open air is a fundamental characteristic of the breeding of foie gras palmipeds.
Fat palmipeds remain in outdoor areas during 10 to 15 weeks, depending on the species, until the fattening phase. It is only during that phase that they live in collective housing and only for a limited period of time (between 9 and 12 days for ducks and 12 to 15 days for geese). This housing system meets all the requirements of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation of 22 June 1999 since it allows the animals to stand with a normal posture, flap their wings, turn around without difficulty and perform normal social interactions. The shift from the use of individual cages for the production of foie gras to collective housing, required by the above-mentioned Recommendation, represented a significant investment of more than 120 million euros for the European breeders.
Moreover, Euro Foie Gras underlined its commitment to a process of constant improvement in breeding practices by using the most up-to-date scientific data and on-farm testing. In this respect, the Federation recalled that the 1998 SCAHAW report on the welfare aspects of ducks and geese in foie gras production had a limited methodology and highly questionable recommendations. Therefore, after more than twenty years, this report cannot be cited as a reference on the welfare of fat palmipeds.
The Federation also stressed that any additional requirements on the housing systems would need to be scientifically assessed taking into account the specificities of each species and the different production stage. It is also crucial to define what a cage is, as a starting point. Furthermore, if additional EU standards are imposed on European farmers, they will have to be financially supported and a sufficient transition period will have to be adopted. Euro Foie Gras alerted that if stricter animal welfare rules were adopted while continuing to allow imports that do not meet the same standards to enter, this would inevitably harm the competitiveness of the European livestock sector which would face unfair competition from third countries. Therefore, concrete guarantees in line with WTO rules are needed to ensure a level playing field for European livestock farmers.
Maintaining the definition of raw foie gras in the marketing standards is essential
The European Foie Gras Federation contributed to the European Commission’s public consultation on the revision of marketing standards for agricultural products.
In its contribution, Euro Foie Gras reaffirms the need of maintaining the definition of raw foie gras in the European marketing standards. Indeed, the minimum weight of livers – 300g for ducks and 400g for geese – ensures the authenticity and quality of the product. Below these weights, the liver cells are too small and therefore insufficiently fattened. It is thus essential to maintain this weight requirement, in particular to guarantee the accuracy of the information given to consumers so that they can make informed choices and to protect an authentic production method and a prestigious product against any fraudulent practices.
Furthermore, the Federation deplores that there is still no definition of processed foie gras. This product represents 80% of foie gras sales. Without a clear text, consumers risk buying a product that does not have the same intrinsic characteristics as foie gras and that does not meet their expectations in terms of quality and taste. Euro Foie Gras therefore calls for the integration of the definition of processed foie gras in the future legislative proposal on marketing standards.
This proposal from the European Commission is expected in 2022 after the completion of the impact assessment.
Picture: © CIFOG/ADOCOM RP
EU Promotion Policy: EFG strongly opposed to an exclusion of meat products
Euro Foie Gras responded to the European Commission’s consultation on the review of the European promotion policy for farm and food products. The Federation was keen to stress the essential role of agricultural products (including meat products) in a balanced diet, and therefore the importance of maintaining them in the promotion policy.
It is essential to bear in mind that the promotion policy already contributes to food sustainability through the high sustainability standards of European products, in particular with regards to environmental sustainability and animal welfare.
Furthermore, the assessment of the sustainability of a product must take into account all its different aspects (the social, environmental and economic pillars). For example, fat palmipeds breeders guarantee optimal farming conditions that ensure a good balance between the different components of sustainability (animal welfare, animal health, environment, farmer’s welfare, etc.).
Moreover, we would like to stress that the healthiness of a food product depends on the way it is consumed and incorporated into an overall diet. In this sense, all agricultural products, consumed in adequate quantities, play a key role in a balanced diet.
For all these reasons, we strongly insist that all agricultural products should be included and their promotion should go hand in hand with the promotion of a healthy, diversified and balanced diet.
We are therefore strongly opposed to any reduction in support for or exclusion of meat products. Meat products have been and continue to be an important food source providing a wide range of valuable nutrients that can be easily absorbed by our bodies. Some nutrients found in these products are not always readily available from plant-based foods.
Finally, if the Commission stopped promoting certain EU products such as meat products, consumers would switch to similar products from third countries with considerably lower standards. This would indirectly promote less sustainable production.
Picture: © CIFOG/ADOCOM RP / Ph Asset
Commission Communication on the ECI “End the Cage Age”: many questions remain
Euro Foie Gras takes note of the publication of the European Commission communication on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “End the Cage Age”. This communication, calling for the phasing out of cages for farm animals under certain conditions, raises many questions within the Federation.
First of all, the European Commission is making a strong political commitment without even defining the central term: the cage. How can such a decision be applied in the future without understanding exactly what it refers to?
Secondly, this communication was published without any prior impact assessment. This will be carried out a posteriori, and therefore after the political commitment. An upstream evaluation would have been desirable in order to better understand the impact of such a decision, which will have major consequences for many agricultural sectors.
Furthermore, the Commission announced support measures that will be granted to farmers to help them through the transition. Euro Foie Gras considers that these measures are not sufficient in view of the future repercussions for the livestock sector. Moreover, not all sectors such as poultry farming are eligible to benefit from CAP aids. In addition, some of them risk not being supported equally by their national authorities (via the 2nd pillar of the CAP for example), which would create an imbalance on the European internal market.
Finally, Euro Foie Gras has noted the Commission’s ideas in order to avoid unfair competition from third countries and to promote our European products. However, the Federation deplores the fact that, in the face of a strong political commitment, no guarantees are given to breeders regarding cheaper imported products. The obvious risk of abolishing cages is an increase in the cost of products to support the necessary adaptations. The majority of consumers could then turn to cheaper products imported from third countries, which do not follow the same animal welfare standards.
The Federation recalls that fat palmipeds are reared for 90% of their lives in outdoor areas with access to open-air runs. The animals spend only 10 days in collective housing during the last phase of rearing: assisted feeding. 120 million euros were invested to replace individual housing by collective housing systems that comply with the recommendations of the Council of Europe of 22 June 1999 (possibility for the palmipeds to flap their wings, to make normal preening movements, to turn around without difficulty…).
Euro Foie Gras remains constructive and calls on the European institutions to involve the different agricultural sectors as much as possible, including the foie gras sector, in the discussion on this subject.
Picture: © CIFOG
Euro Foie Gras GA: The sector highlights its openness and transparency to counter prejudices
On Thursday 18 June, Euro Foie Gras held its General Assembly online.
Christophe Barrailh, President of the Federation, first touched upon the European Parliament’s vote calling on the Commission to ban force-feeding, describing it as “surprising and shocking“. Indeed, the vote on this amendment, which took place in the context of the adoption of the parliamentary resolution on the European citizens’ Initiative “End the Cage Age”, was not only out of context, but also took place without consulting the various stakeholders involved in this topic. Christophe Barrailh stressed that “it is essential to remember that foie gras cannot be produced without assisted feeding. To date, there is no credible alternative.” The Federation is more determined than ever to continue on the path of transparency and to invite political decision-makers to visit a foie gras farm to better understand the sector.
Euro Foie Gras will also bring the sector to the citizens’ attention through the European promotion programme. In this context, the Federation is looking forward to launching its campaign website “On the road to foie gras” this summer. It will follow the adventures of bloggers and influencers who will meet foie gras producers in 4 European countries (Spain, France, Belgium and Hungary) in order to share this traditional know-how.
Finally, the Federation will continue its work to develop European animal welfare indicators. This topic, essential for foie gras producers, remains at the heart of their concerns.
European Parliament’s call to ban force-feeding: a vote out of scope, with a total absence of debate
Brussels, 11 June 2021 – The European Federation of Foie Gras (Euro Foie Gras) is shocked by the vote in the European Parliament calling on the European Commission to ban force-feeding for the production of foie gras. This amendment, which is not legally binding, has been adopted without any debate and shows a total misconception of the sector. Foie gras production is part of the European gastronomic heritage and follows all EU animal welfare and health regulations.
On 10 June, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a resolution on the European Citizens’ Initiative “End the Cage Age”. During this vote, a completely out of scope amendment calling on the European Commission to come up with a proposal to ban the force-feeding of ducks and geese for the production of foie gras, was adopted.
Euro Foie Gras is dismayed that such an amendment was voted with a total absence of debate. This vote is the result of a lack of knowledge and understanding of the sector which leads to misconceptions and prejudices fed bywrong stereotypes from animalist activists.
Christophe Barrailh, President of Euro Foie Gras, speaks out: “How can we vote on an amendment which could put an end to a sector without any consultation? A debate is more than necessary, given what is at stake. EU decision-makers should not forget, while discussing this question, the men and women working hard every day to produce this exceptional dish.”
As of today, there are no alternatives to force-feeding which means that, if such an amendment entered into force, it would stop the sector overnight. This would result in the loss of more than 50.000 direct jobs and the disappearance of a high-quality product, which is a symbol of the finest European gastronomy. Foie gras farmers participate in the life of rural areas, economically and socially, and are an important part of many regions’ traditions.
It is worth recalling that article 13 of the TFUE states that “(…) the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.” “This second part of the article must also be respected, as foie gras production belongs to the cultural and regional European heritage,” adds Mr Barrailh.
Furthermore, the European foie gras sector meets societal expectations: the production is extensive, outdoor and often family-based. Letting ducks and geese spending 90% of their life outdoors is essential for the breeders to ensure the quality of the animals’ life and of the product.
The Federation would like to remind that the fattening of palmipeds raised for foie gras production is done by professionals trained for this specific task. It fully respects the welfare of the animals, as confirmed by several studies. Assisted feeding must be understood in light of the particular anatomy of fat palmipeds. They have an elastic oesophagus that can expand like a snake and allow them to swallow all kinds of prey such as fish or frogs. For this reason, their anatomy cannot, and should not, be compared to the human anatomy. Let’s stop anthropomorphism!
Today, Euro Foie Gras calls on European, national, regional, local decision-makers and citizens to visit a foie gras farm before taking any rushed decision on the matter. The Federation would be glad to conduct a rational and informed exchange of views on this topic.
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 Scientific studies have been synthetised by the scientists Gérard Guy (INRA) and Xavier Fernandez (ENSAT) in a document written in October 2013.
Stop misinformation: A UK ban on foie gras imports would threaten consumers’ freedom
Brussels, 19 May 2021 – The European Federation of Foie Gras (Euro Foie Gras) is deeply concerned by the UK government’s plan to ban foie gras imports and trade under the Action Plan for Animal Welfare. Foie gras is a high-quality product which complies with all EU standards regarding animal health and welfare. The UK government should base its decision on scientific facts and field practice rather than on emotional opinions.
Foie gras production is not cruel. The anatomical characteristics of ducks and geese cannot be compared to humans. These animals have no glottis but an elastic oesophagus that can expand like a snake, allowing them to swallow all kinds of prey such as fish or frogs. Assisted feeding is fully adapted to the fat palmipeds’ physiology and is performed by trained professionals. As such, it does not cause any suffering to these animals, as confirmed by scientific studies.
Moreover, European foie gras producers have decided to go beyond their legal obligations by adopting a European Charter on Breeding of Waterfowl for Foie Gras.
Ensuring high quality living conditions is a daily concern for any breeders of fat palmipeds. Animals being bred outdoor 90% of their life and free-range farming is the DNA of the foie gras production and a prerequisite to obtain a quality product.
“The ban proposal clearly shows a lack of understanding of our practices. Has any UK policy maker ever been to a foie gras farm and seen the rearing conditions in practice? Euro Foie Gras is happy to invite them”, says Christophe Barrailh, Euro Foie Gras President.
Furthermore, a ban on foie gras in the UK would threaten the consumers’ freedom to choose what they want to purchase, and we believe that British citizens should be entitled to consume foie gras if they enjoy it. These developments are all the more surprising given the importance the UK attaches to these freedoms.
Consequently, Euro Foie Gras firmly condemns the current projects to ban foie gras trade and imports in the UK, which are totally unjustified from an animal welfare and an economic perspective.
For these reasons, the Federation calls upon the UK’s
government to continue importing foie gras, a traditional European gastronomic delicacy,
and to fully respect the freedom of choice of British consumers.
 Scientific studies have been synthetised by the scientists Gérard Guy (INRA) and Xavier Fernandez (ENSAT) in a document written in October 2013.
The “European Charter on breeding of waterfowl for foie gras”, signed by the representatives of all the foie gras producing countries in the EU, contains the commitments that must govern this farming activity in the spirit of the 12 principles retained in the “Welfare Quality Project”: