6 tips to travel sustainably in France for foodies

Eating is one of the primary pleasures of travel, especially in France! Quality products, local flavors, local traditions, respect for nature and the seasons; France has always had the good taste (and knowhow) to cultivate the art of eating well. The proof in the pudding? In 2010, UNESCO included the French gastronomic meal as part of the intangible cultural heritage of Humanity. Faced with environmental challenges, the recipe for sustainably cooking--and eating--has never been so relevant. To indulge sustainably, let's whet our appetite with this practical, local and gourmet guide.

Frequent the farms of the fields...

For 33 years, the 8,000 farmers of the Bienvenue à la Ferme group have opened their farms all over France, inviting visitors to eat and even sleep "French farm-style". In 4,400 shops, 720 farmers'markets or via 120 Farmers' Drive, you can buy farm-to-table vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meats and charcuteries made in Brittany, Auvergne or Normandy. Another pioneer, the Chapeau de Paille picking network has been welcoming fans of the short circuit delivery system since 1985 in fields, orchards and vegetable gardens around Paris and in all French regions. Grab a basket and make like the farmers!

Bienvenue à la Ferme (External link)
Chapeau de Paille (External link)

...and urban farms

You don't have to in the countryside to meet real French farmers, pick apples or fill trays with tangy strawberries. In recent years, agriculture has taken root in the cities and urban farms (around 30 in Paris, more than 400 throughout France) grow like mushrooms, even on roofs! The largest urban rooftop farm in Europe lies on Pavilion 6 of the Parc des Expositions, Porte de Versailles in Paris. Raspberries, green beans, tomatoes, mini-carrots, herbs and more make up, according to the seasons, the gourmet baskets of Nature Urbaine (NU), though tasting visits are currently on hold. In Nantes, the Agronaute, an urban farm managed by SAUGE (Société d'Agriculture Urbaine Généreuse et Engagée), has planted itself in the former MIN (Market of National Interest) and treats gourmets with its micro-shoots. and crops on straw bales. When locavore marries innovation, the fruit of their union tastes even better!

Nature Urbaine Paris (External link)
L'Agronaute (External link)
La SAUGE (External link)

Prefer committed chefs

Vegetable gardens in permaculture, local sourcing, respect for the land, seasons, producers as well as animals and recycling organic waste into compost: great French chefs are increasingly seeing gastronomy in green. And they are rewarded for their efforts. Since 2020, the Michelin Guide has awarded a green star to the most committed chefs and their responsible cuisine. In the second “Sustainable gastronomy” selection of the famous red guide (33 listings in 2021), young stars like Claire Vallée with ONA, a 100% vegan restaurant near the Arcachon basin, rub shoulders with long-time believers like Thierry Schwartz, chef of Obernai in Alsace, a nearly two-decade practitioner of local cuisine and zero waste. What do they have in common? Weaving an ecological current with daring and creative cuisine without denying know-how or tradition. And they more than deliver! We can't wait to see what they cook up for the next edition of Goût de France/Good France, if all goes well, in October 2021. The event celebrating the best of French gastronomy and its chefs around the world will be on the theme of sustainable flavors, sponsored by Christophe Hay. This 2 Michelin star vegetarian and vegetable enthusiast chef likes to introduce green gold to La Maison d’à Côté, his beautiful restaurant in the Loire Valley, a stone's throw from the Château de Chambord.

Guide Michelin - Les nouvelles étoiles vertes 2021 (External link)
ONA Gastronomie Végétale (External link)
Thierry Schwartz (External link)

Learn to trace

Where do the products on the supermarket shelves come from, how can we be sure of the origin of the foods put on the menu by restaurateurs? And what about the quality of so-called local specialties? Consumers and gourmets are increasingly demanding transparency and information on agricultural and food products, including those coming from the organic sector. Labels and other designations, such Agricultural Products of France or Organic Agriculture (AB), already in existence, but have been strengthened due to a requirement from a law put into place May 27, 2020. SIQO (Signs of Identification of Origin and Quality) also remains a reference for local products that bear a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), a Controlled Designation of Origin (AOC) or a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
Among the latest initiatives to date, the "Fresh and Local" platform, launched last January by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in partnership with the Chambers of Agriculture, makes it easy to identify producers and their points of sale nearby. Also recently rolled out by mass distribution and retail food, the "Plus près de chez vous et de vos goûts" ("Closer to home and to your tastes") banner accompanies the growing appetite for fresh and local products. So, no more excuses for consuming without origin tracing!

Frais et Local (External link)
SIQO (External link)
Produits Agricoles de France (External link)
Agence Bio (External link)
Alsace Qualité (External link)

Promote sustainable fishing

In Brittany, Normandy or on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is always a way to buy fresh fish, shellfish and crustaceans, often right from the boat. The rest of the time, it is better to promote respectful fishing, certified for example by the French eco-label "Pêche Durable" ("Sustainable Fishing") initiated in 2017. The Marine Stewardship Council, an NGO behind the MSC label certifying responsible, respectful and sustainable fishing, mainly industrial, finds this crucial to supporting France's sea life. For artisanal fishing, smaller labels, and therefore rarer to track down, are the benchmark. "Artysanal Pêche artisanale garantie" ("Artysanal Guaranteed artisanal fishing"), is meted out by the association Smart, while the label "Bar de ligne - Pointe de Bretagne" is awareded by the Association des lineurs de la pointe de Bretagne.

Écolabel public Pêche Durable (External link)
Marine Stewardship Council (External link)
Artysanal (External link)
Association des Ligneurs de la Pointe Bretagne (External link)

Developing the resources of regional natural parks

Browsing products sourced from 54 Regional Natural Parks that dot France is like tasting the very goodness of French soil! Essential for biodiversity and respectful agricultural development, the PNRs are an ode to "eating well" promoted by the "Valeurs Parc naturel régional" brand. From Avèze, you can taste liqueur from the Volcanoes of Auvergne, made from gentian roots and the first product to be marked in 1998. Then try goat cheese from Sainte-Baume in Provence, chestnuts from the Monts d'Ardèche or baguettes from Perche in Normandy--the best of France lies in its parks. Don't forget clams from the Gulf of Morbihan in Brittany, homemade jams from the Orient forest in Champagne, poultry from the Alpine foothills of Azur or honey from the Gorges du Verdon. Chefs have also joined the Valeurs Parc brand, like Vincent Simon, awarded a Michelin green star. The Loire Valley "country cook" offers a "0 km" menu, equal parts tasty and sustainable. Recipes, producers and can't-miss spots for PNRs can be found in "Gourmet Itinerary of Regional Natural Parks", a mouth-watering French-language book edited by Marabout.

Parcs Naturels Régionaux (External link)
Itinéraire gourmand dans les Parcs naturels régionaux (External link)
Vincent Cuisinier de Campagne (External link)