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Fine dining French the world’s biggest scoffers of pizza

The latest study on French eating habits suggests the locals have a love affair with foreign foods, well one in particular.

Fine dining French the world's biggest scoffers of pizza
Photo: Ben britten/Zack MiddletonFlickr

France is the undisputed home of gastronomy (whatever the Italians might say) but it appears the natives are far happier dining out on pizzas and burgers.

A new study released has revealed the French have an ever-increasing appetite for foreign fast food – often at the expense of their own Gallic grub like the classic jambon-beurre baguette.

One of the revelations in the report by food consultancy company Gira Conseil was that the French are now the world champions at pizza-eating, with only the Americans matching their appetite for the dish.

The Italians meanwhile languish in tenth place when it comes to pizza consumption.

In fact to put it into numbers the French ate a stomach-churning 819 million pizzas in 2015. That's ten million margaritas more than the 809 million they scoffed in 2014. 

That figure includes frozen pizzas bought in supermarkets and those eaten out at pizzerias, which accounts for 51 percent of all pizzas consumed in France)

“Pizza is a hit in France,” said Bernard Boutboul, director of Gira Conseil, stating the obvious.

But why? Boutboul suggests the reason is because it's might be to do with the fact that a contrast to the sit down, mind your manners, meals French people are used to.

“First of all because it’s a dish which you share, which fits in with our culture based on conviviality,” Boutboul explained, adding that dough or bread-based foods topped with a choice of ingredients “always work very well”.

Another reason is the price. Given that the average price of a pizza is €6.27 it means it constitutes an affordable dinner.

The favourite pizza is the Reine (tomato sauce, ham, cheese and mushrooms); this and the margherita alone account for half of France's pizza consumption, showing that while they may be willing to try foreign food, they aren't prepared to be too adventurous with the ingredients.

But it's not just pizzas the French are scoffing in their millions.

Another shock for those who view France as traditionalists when it comes to food is the country's ever growing “burger mania”.

French people scoffed 1.19 billion burgers in 2015, up 11.21 percent from the previous year. The snack is becoming so popular that it looks set to topple the classic jambon-buerre (ham and butter) sandwich from its pedestal. Sales of this traditional sandwich have declined for the second year running, though they were still sold 1.23 billion times last year.

One problem is that the jambon-buerre is becoming more expensive. Its average price-tag rose by 3.67 percent to €2.84 last year, and is priciest in big cities, reaching €3.40 in Paris. Meanwhile, burgers and pizzas are becoming a more affordable option as the prices for both saw an overall drop last year.

Gira Conseil's Boutboul revealed: “75 percent of French restaurants now have a burger on the menu, and 80 percent of those tell us it has become their biggest seller.”

Fast food chains, particularly American imports Burger King and McDonald's are only partly responsible for the trend representing 34 percent of all the burgers sold in France.

Nevertheless Burger King and McDonald's are hugely popular in France, with Burger King having taken over the 509 branches of French chain Quick, leading Boutboul to call its level of success “unheard of”

And following in the footsteps of “burger mania” is “bagel mania”.

Last winter bagels emerged as France's latest foodie trend, offering yet another alternative to baguettes and croissants.

The times they are a changing.

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POLITICS

Paris Agriculture show returns for 2022 event

The Paris farm show is back after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Set to be held one month before the presidential election, the 2022 event will be politically loaded.

French President Emmanuel Macron checks the quality of a cow during the Paris Agriculture show.
French President Emmanuel Macron checks the quality of a cow during the Paris Agriculture show. The event returns in late February after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic. (Photo by Ludovic Marin / POOL / AFP)

The organisers of the Salon de l’agriculture, an annual farm show held in Paris, have announced that the 2022 event will be held from February 26th – March 6th.

The 2021 edition was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic – and the 2020 event was cut short – and there had been fears that this year would suffer the same fate. 

“This edition will not be like the others,” wrote the organisers in a statement, out of “respect for the health guidelines.” 

Mask-wearing rules, added ventilation inside exhibition tents and special measures to facilitate tastings during the pandemic will be implemented. Visitors will need to hold a valid health pass. 

The event falls just over one month before the first round of the presidential election, set for April 10th – and candidates will be sure to milk the opportunity to score political points. 

The event is the annual highlight of the agriculture sector – which employs about 759,000 people in France – and many more rely on the agricultural sector indirectly for employment. The sector was valued at €81.2 billion in 2021.

“This is a highly anticipated event, not just for the farming community, but also for citizens, political leaders and the media,” wrote the event organisers. 

Former President Jacques Chirac pioneered the use of the farm show as a political event, visiting almost every year from 1972- 2011. 

Former President Jacques Chirac inaugurates the 2007 Paris farm show.

Former President Jacques Chirac inaugurates the 2007 Paris farm show. (Photo by PATRICK KOVARIK / POOL / AFP)

In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron spent 14 hours strolling through the farm show, shaking hands and speaking with producers. This marathon visit set a new record for a sitting president. 

Previously, Francois Hollande is reported to have paid a 10 hour visit, Jacques Chirac 5.5 hours and Nicolas Sarkozy just four hours. 

The Local visited the show in 2020 to find out why it was so important for politicians to attend. 

READ MORE Why petting cows at the farm show is crucial for French politicians

The event, which is held at the Porte de Versailles in the south of Paris, isn’t just for farmers and politicians – it’s hugely popular with the public and thousands of people usually attend. 

The full ticket price is €15, for children between 6-12 it is €8 and children under six can go free. There are also group discounts available. 

Tickets can be bought online here and at the venue itself. 

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