Fiche Technique

French Dairy products

09-06-2015 French dairy products, dairy products production in France

Etat des lieux général

More than 700 million tons of milk are produced every year worldwide. This production is dominated by cow’s milk, which represents nearly 600 million tons, or 83 % of the quantities produced in 2010.


Asia, Europe and the United States dominate the market:
– the leading producer is India (108 million tons)
– followed by the United States which produces 89 million tons of milk (with only 3% of the world’s livestock, this represent the best yield with 9500 kg of milk per cow per year)
– China is ranked 3rd producing 36 million tons of milk per year.

France is ranked 8th in the world producing 24 million tons of milk per year on average.


– The French consume an average of 67 liters of milk per capita per year.
– Consumption of French Dairy products is divided into two main sectors: liquid milk (50%) and cheese and fermented milk (30%).
– France is thus ranked 12th amongst the largest milk consuming countries in the world (in first place is Australia with more than 105 liters of milk per capita and per year).
– 72% of  all French people consume dairy products every day.
– 92% of all French people consume cheese at least once a week. The French consume on average 24 kilograms of cheese per capita per year, which makes them the 2nd  largest cheese consuming country in Europe (behind – Greece where each inhabitant consumes 25kg a year!)
– The French especially like butter: they consume 7.6 kg of butter per capita per year. They are the biggest consumers of butter in all of Europe.
– The French also consume 57 kg of liquid milk (one of the lowest rates of milk consumption in Europe), 5.8 kg of cream and nearly 30kg of yogurt and milk-based desserts.
– Compared to its European neighbors, France consumes a lot more cheese and yogurt. In the United Kingdom or Spain for example, cheese and fermented milk accounts for no more than 15% of all dairy product consumption per capita.

The French’s favorite cheeses are:

– Hard cheeses : emmental, comté, etc.
– Soft cheeses : camembert, brie, etc.


For every ten liters of milk produced in France each year, four are exported. That represents 10.2 billion liters of milk a year.
In 2012, 8 billion euros of French dairy products were exported.
– 69 % of these exports were dispatched to European markets.
– Cheese accounts for 43% of all exported products. In second place with 40% of exports are dry and industrial products (19% of which is powdered milk) and mass consumption products (yogurt, desserts, bottled milk) at 17%.
– France is  ranked 3rd among European exporters of cheese. The country is ranked first for export of soft cheeses and Emmental.
– 64% of all powdered milk produced in France is exported to Asia or the Middle East.

French businesses, export leaders of dairy products

Five of France’s milk producers are ranked in the world top 25:- Lactalis (2nd )  – Danone (3rd )  – Sodiaal (14th )  – Bongrain (18th )  – Bel (23rd )

Le lait français et les produits laitiers en France : production, consommation et exportation


Production of dairy products in Europe

– Europe (27 European Union countries including Russia) produces 139 million tons of milk per year, or about 20% of the world’s entire production.
– Europe holds 15% of all livestock for a total estimated average yield of 6 tons of milk per cow on average a year.
– The leading producer of milk in Europe (excluding Russia) is Germany, which produces 29 million tons of milk on average each year (21% of European production). France is a close second with 24 million tons (18%).
– Behind both France and Germany, the United Kingdom (13 million tons) is in third place amongst European produces, followed by the Netherlands (11 millions) and Italy (10 millions).
– In the Euro zone, Russia (32 million tons, 4th largest producer in the world) and the Ukraine (12 million tons) are also large producers.
– In the global market, Europe leads in cheese exports and holds 62% of the market share for exports to the United States.


Production of dairy products in France

– In France, dairy products are the 2nd  largest agrifood industry after meat.
– On average, 24 million tons of milk, or about 24 billion liters of milk, are produced every year! That represents a turnover of 23.4 billion euros in 2010.
– France is ranked the 2nd  producer of milk, cheese and butter in Europe and is Europe’s largest producer of powdered milk.
– France has close to 4 million dairy cows spread across roughly 70,000 farms.
– France also has 1.3 million milk producing sheep and almost one million goats.
– Production occurs predominantly in western France: Brittany alone is responsible for 18% of all national production. Following Brittany is the Pays de la Loire (13%), Basse-Normandie (10.5%) and Rhône-Alpes (8%).
– France  has 700 processing establishments with over 60,000 employees.
– In total, the milk industry in France (farms and milk industries combined) employs 250,000 people.
– 72% of all collected milk is transformed into dairy products for general consumption (cheese, yogurt, butter, cream, UHT milk, etc.). The remaining 28% is transformed into industrial products (used most notably by pharmaceutical industries).

In sum, each year the milk industry produces:

– 2.4 million tons of yogurt and desserts
– 1.9 million tons of cheese
– More than 760,000 tons of butter and cream
– Nearly 500,000 tons of powdered milk.

A savoir

France, land of cheese

It’s not for surprising that Charles de Gaulle oncestated « How can you expect me to govern a country with over 300 types of cheese? » France is renowned throughout the world for the quality and variety of its cheeses: there are more than a thousand, among them soft cheese, hard cheeses or blue cheeses. Moreover, the cheese industry is flourishing: France has more than 1400 producers, 500 cooperative or private transforming plants and 150 cheese refiners. France has 50 AOCs (47 of which are PDO’s, Protected Designation of Origin) for 45 cheeses, 2 types of cream and 3 different types of butter…proof of France’s unbeatable expertise.

Statistic sources :

Faostat / FranceAgrimer / CNIEL

Sources :