Posted by Deborah Dunham on February 3, 2010 05:03 PM
French women do indeed get fat – and that may be the result of their progressively Americanized diets.
The stereotypical image of the French sipping on a glass of red wine and lingering over a warm baguette and their favorite Camembert is changing as more mass-produced, processed, fast food brands enter their market.
Take cheese, for example. Raw-milk cheeses used to account for virtually all French production until World War II and the arrival of the US military. Today, it’s a dying brand with only a seven percent market share according to the cheese-boosters' group.
The culprit behind this decreasing market? Pasteurization for one. Citing growing health concerns, raw milk is a problem due to its potentially harmful bacteria. Pasteurization wipes that out. But it has also wiped out many traditional cheese shops that don’t buy into this processing method.
Globalization of the cheese market is also to blame. It’s difficult for a single farm to compete with mass-produced products like emmenthal, camembert and the orange-colored mimolette, and processed cheeses like the Laughing Cow brand.
Rising costs for family farms and the increasing availability of lower, supermarket brands have created a surge towards mass-produced cheese that boasts higher profits due to increased production and efficiency. Just look at companies like Kraft and Lactalis.
"We never wanted to kill small producers; they have the capacity to kill themselves," Luc Morelon, director of communications at Lactalis, told the NY Times. "We have other objectives: to develop a French company and to increase the consumption of cheeses and dairy products worldwide with good brands and consumer confidence due to quality."
In a country where 20,000 fromageries used to exist, that number has now dwindled to 3,300 in France. “A farm has to be viable financially and the product we make has to interest people or we can't in good faith continue. It's too hard a job,” one of the few remaining cheese farmers, Paulette Marmottan, told the Associated Press.
Buying cheese has even been equated with buying a box of detergent according to one cheese association. "There are plenty of cheeses that only exist as names in old books," said Stephane Blohorn, who owns Androuet, a famous 101-year-old chain of Paris cheese shops. "Supermarkets have effectively squeezed out the small retailers. Those who survived are really offering a superior product aimed at very discriminating consumers."
And at $16 a pound for some of the remaining French cheeses – like the Persille de Tignes at Au Bon Fromage in Paris, it’s easy to see why more Frenchmen and women are saying “Bon appetite” to the larger, commercialized brands.