At the end of 2013, the announcement of the massive investment of Synutra, a giant Chinese food company, which decided to build a large milk production plant in French Brittany revived the debate on the “intensification” of milk production in a context of large demonstrations against mega farms. If some consider this investment (which could consume up to 6% of the whole milk production of the West of France) to be good news, others are worried that this represents a new leap forward towards an agro-exporting model that drives a price race to the bottom.

Going beyond the hot debates that spread the media each time prices run down, a more systemic research seems necessary to inform the public debate: What are the key impacts, social as well as environmental, generated by the intensive model of milk production? What are the long-term effects of the growing business concentration? To what extent does these dynamics affect the sustainability of the sector? What are the existing alternatives? To what extent do they offer a different path?

The above video (in French, with subtitles in English) is based on a meta-analysis that we conducted for the French Senate in April 2013 (available here – in French) to provide answers to these questions. It consolidates the results of more than a hundred reports and studies published by French institutions, ministries and research bodies. It provides an overview of the French milk industry and a first estimates of the hidden social, health and environmental costs it generates.