The Concours Général Agricole: A unique phenomenon in the world
Organized every year at late February, as part of the Salon International de l'Agriculture trade fair, this event awards prizes to six thousand five hundred animals, products and wines in the form of prestigious "oak leaf" medals in gold, silver and bronze. To mark the closing of the 2022 edition on March 6, we look back at this flagship of exceptional French food products.
An extraordinary competition
More than 22,000 competitors, 9 days of finals, 8,000 jurors, up to 500 staff members, a budget of 5 million euros: There is nothing else like the Concours Général Agricole anywhere in the world. Especially in terms of history. Starting life as the Concours de Poissy in 1843, it acquired its current name in 1870. In other words, even before the creation of France's Ministry of Agriculture (1881) or the Salon International de l'Agriculture (1964).
Ever since then, the "CGA" has continued to grow, incorporating in its awards more than 1700 different varieties of products and wines, and now hands out prizes for pork, beef, poultry, honey, goats, wine, vanilla and jams (among others)… to the extent that it now covers 35 sectors on its own, grouped into 5 main categories: Animals, wine, produce, young professionals and agroecological techniques.
A well-oiled mechanism
Most of the judging systems rely on tastings – and blind tastings, at that – or parades of livestock around the Salon's central ring and on video via the Internet, with audiences tuning in from all across the globe! The 8,000 jurors for each event are handpicked. Half of them are professionals, of course (chefs, producers, federation heads, etc.), but many others too… This year, nearly 900 amateurs also got to have their say, after an online registration process and targeted training.
The goal? To teach them how to assess the excellence of the products in question, so that they can offer their opinions as consumers on the big day. And that's a serious business! Behind closed doors, tailor-made analysis sheets and moderators set the tone for a demanding selection process. For a competition that's over 150 years old, you can't let standards slip! An average of just 25% of registrants are awarded.
A win-win strategy
For the winners – mostly family businesses with fewer than 10 employees – the stakes are high. In addition to the proud knowledge of a job done well, their talents are being recognized by an entire sector. Better still, winning the only medal awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture has a direct impact on sales, both in France and abroad: Between 18 and 40%, depending on the precise category! These financial benefits, coupled with the growing popularity of short production chains, are increasingly attracting young producers and consumers. Consequently, they are once again participating in large numbers in the Concours Général Agricole, which has cannily just launched a new smartphone application offering users a map on which they can locate all the medals and information on their products…