The Foie Gras farm experience.
We are fed a lot of information across media outlets these days regarding causes which we should sign our names to. Most recently for me, and somewhat suitably I received an email originating in California asking for my support in banning traditional Foie Gras practices. While I dismissed this email immediately I wont deny that this luxury liver has had me questioning my gluttony on more than one occasion.
Today however I visited a farm practicing in the traditional force feeding methods as required in order to obtain the exquisitely smooth and fatty liver product we are accustomed to.
These are the facts -
- Foie means liver Gras means Fat
- Ancient Egyptians were the first to observe and replicate a natural process of animals gorging in order to fatten their own livers ~2500 years ago
- Ducks and geese do not gorge themselves naturally all of the time
- Foie Gras is produced from both Goose and Duck liver for slightly different results. Goose offering a slightly more delicate texture and flavour, also slightly larger.
- Force feeding is called gavage
- EU legislation prohibits the use of individual caging for gavage as we are so often told is the norm
- Gavage occurs over the final 2 weeks before slaughter only
- Gavage when properly administered does not damage internal passages
- Corn is fed to the animal into its gullet where it begins a natural digestion process - not forced directly into its stomach.
- Animals are fed increasing amounts of corn over the two weeks to allow the body to adapt to increased volume
- Livers have been observed to reduce back to normal size over time when force feeding is stopped
- A fattened duck or goose liver is not a diseased one
Many travesties regarding animal welfare do occur on a daily basis, but my experience today was not one of them. Were I going to pen an opinion only on what I saw today, I would struggle in a serious way to make it a negative one.
General good practice throughout the EU sees ducks enjoying vast grassy paddocks to roam with fresh feed, water and all the grass and beetles they could want. Come time for gavage while cages are introduced they are kept very clean and of reasonable size.
The farm I visited today executes a policy of minimal interaction with the ducks involved in gavage, allowing only the same two staff to undertake feeding in order to maintain familiarity and reduce stress levels.
I should reassure you here that I am not denying that bad practice no longer exists elsewhere in the world, however here in France at a well maintained farm of reasonable size (600 animals per week) the plot is hardly that of a horror movie.
If you are buying Foie Gras lobes from your supermarket at a heavily discounted price, you are probably buying a poorly raised and handled product. It is this product that is the source of the bad practice that we are so often shown on television and social media.
Perhaps the real issue is that of traceability and awareness not so much of practice. As with all things, be it food, electronics or clothing, if you just give two fucks to make an educated decision, far less people and things get hurt.
Naturally the decision is yours to make but I urge you to give it just the smallest amount of thought.