This morning at 4am, I was on my way to the outskirts of Paris to visit what is by FAR the largest wholesale food market in the world. Of course, there are other large markets around the globe, such as the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo (which turns over much more fish than Rungis sees in a year), but where Tsukiji just sells fish, Rungis sells everything you’d ever need. As our guide put it, the market is quite literally a small town in itself. There are restaurants, a hospital, police stations, store selling equipment, and of course the acres and acres of warehouses and offices. It’s tremendous, and we were all eager to see as much of it as we could manage in a morning.
We arrived early because the fish markets close their sales floors at 5:30am. Even when we got there, many of the sellers were already down to their last cases, or beginning to pack things up. Even so, we were able to catch a glimpse of some of the madness.
After working our way through the fish building, we got back on the bus and rode across Rungis to see the meat.
3rd on the tour was the dairy building. This one was also a bit smelly until you acclimated yourself.
If you have the time and want to make the effort, Rungis is well worth a visit. Its hard not to be a little overwhelmed at how much food we eat…and to remember that while Paris is a big population (and a portion of the food does go outside of Paris) it is just a small fraction of how much food passes hands across the earth. Its certainly a reminder to be good stewards of what is given to us, the amount of energy and effort that goes into feeding a city, and to not take our food sources for granted. It struck me that, if anything ever happened to Rungis, life in Paris would grind to a halt. In this world of mass industrialization, its sometimes hard to keep in mind how much we depend on all these transactions going smoothly to deliver the food we want–year round—to our tables.
I’d certainly say that if you ever have an opportunity to visit Rungis, it’s probably worth it (but not so worth it to plan your entire Paris vacation around it). If you can’t go, at least stop by your local farmer’s market sometime this week and thank a farmer for all the work they do to keep you fed and keep your life as easy and comfortable as it is 🙂