“A two-kilo chicken is reared on an A4 sheet”. In a survey which will be published on Tuesday February 22 on the website of the animal protection association L214, Francis Guilloteau, chicken breeder in Vendée for 36 years, highlights the practices of the Le Gaulois brand. On the occasion of the opening of the Agricultural Show on Saturday February 26, the L214 association is publishing this week one survey per day on the different aspects of intensive farming. The first concerns the giant of chicken production, Le Gaulois, a brand belonging to the LDC group, one of the European leaders in poultry.
The testimony of Francis Guilloteau, who no longer raises poultry since the takeover of his structure by the LDC group, is accompanied by videos shot in an intensive chicken farm located in Moncé-en-Saosnois, in Sarthe, where the Gaul supplies. The images broadcast are brutal. The estate raises up to twenty-two chickens per square meter, according to L214. The latter would have no access to the outside, would live in piles and would be subject to genetic selection to stimulate their growth. Result: animals intended for sale in supermarkets would develop illnesses, fractures and sometimes die of cardiac arrest. Dead animals could remain for several days among their peers, close to other dying chickens. “It is a farm representative of chicken farms in France”, assures Capital Sébastien Arsac, spokesperson for the association.
Practices that weigh on breeders
These practices are all the more problematic as breeders who want to be “reasoned”, like Francis Guilloteau, would not be able to sell their chickens as the conditions imposed by the agrifood giants would be difficult. In the video investigation of L214, this breeder says that these firms “force him to produce more intensive breeding”, asking him to further enlarge his buildings to pile up more animals. According to him, not only the breeder working for the Gaul is not the decision maker of his practices, but he finds himself in the red, all the profits being used to depreciate the buildings. Francis Guilloteau, in a showdown with the consortium of agrifood companies that bought his structure three years ago, has therefore decided to stop his poultry farming.
The testimony of Francis Guilloteau is unprecedented, because according to the spokesperson for L214, breeders with large structures “are bound hand and foot with the cooperatives”. Large farms indeed involve considerable investment. poultry farmers amounted to an average of 257,100 euros in 2017, according to data published by the statistics and forecasting service of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in 2018. “Breeders find themselves taking enormous risks, and this, for a minimal monthly income. If they encounter the slightest technical, sanitary or raw material price problem, they could lose everything”, denounces Sébastien Arsac. , breeders would therefore have no leeway and could not set their prices.
An ambiguous designation of “French origin”
“The consumer who buys the Gaulois is in the dark, he doesn’t know at all what’s in the tray”, insists Francis Guilloteau who also denounces the brand’s lack of transparency. The latter would thus bet on its designation “origin France” to let consumers understand that its products are ethical. “However, this does not imply any guarantee on the treatment of poultry”, points out Sébastien Arsac.
But then, how to try to consume more “responsible” poultry in supermarkets? The “red” and “organic farming” labels, inscribed on certain products, guarantee more reasoned breeding, replies the spokesperson for L214. “Their specifications oblige them to give chickens access to the open air and require them to use strains with slower growth than standard chickens,” he explains. The “strain” designates the genetics of the chickens: intensive farms, such as those of the Le Gaulois brand, use chicken breeds that will grow twice as fast as conventional chickens. This can have consequences on the health and mobility of poultry, leading to problems with the development of their skeleton.
L214 wants to mobilize candidates for the presidential election
As the presidential election approaches, the L214 association is banking on the enthusiasm aroused by the Agricultural Show to make its revelations, an event during which the candidates should express their position on the subject of agriculture, in particular on the issue of animal welfare. “Through these surveys, we want to show what French agriculture really looks like today, which is often represented through idyllic and fantasized images,” says Sébastien Arsac. Because according to calculations made by L214*, 80% of Animals slaughtered for consumption come from intensive farming, a reality far removed from the photos of cows blooming in a green meadow, which are regularly featured on milk bottles.
*Realized by calculating the ratio between the number of animals slaughtered in 2019 (figures available on the site from the Statistics and Forecasting Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food) and the number of animals raised in cages or indoors, itself calculated from the data transmitted by the various firms in the livestock sector.
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