France is among the largest agricultural exporters in the world and a major agricultural power in the EU, accounting for 16% of all its agricultural land. Fifty per cent of the French territory is agricultural land, while 30% is covered with forests. Agriculture employs close to 1 million people (3.4% of the active population) on 490 000 farms with an average size of 55 hectares. One fourth of the farms use a quality brand and 18% of them sell their products via short distribution chains, often directly on the farm.
More than half of French farms are mostly devoted to animal production. France accounts for 17% of the total cow milk collected in the EU and 12% of the total meat produced (20% for cattle, 12% for sheep & goats and 9% for pigs). Animal production accounts for 43 % of the French total agricultural products, that is 25.7 billion euros, mainly in the milk (8.9 billion), beef (8 billion), pork (3.2 billion) and poultry (3.4 billion) sectors. France is known as the country with as many different cheeses as there are days in a year.
Comparatively to the rest of France, the north-western part is highly specialised in intensive animal production: 42% of the livestock population (74% of pigs and 45% of dairy cows) are kept on 21% of the French agricultural area. Yet, the Pays-de-la-Loire region is the leader in France for high-quality, labelised products. Normandy is also famous for its numerous horse farms where many champions have been born and raised.