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foie gras

foie gras production

From the mulard to the mousse, we tell you how this brilliant gourmet delicacy goes from the pen to your pantry.

The Method

There really isn't a nice way of describing how foie gras is made; called gavage in French, foie gras is produced by force-feeding geese or ducks in order to enlarge their livers to maximum capacity, typically a weight reaching one to two pounds. The expanded liver becomes buttery and smooth, with nothing of the original bitter flavors. This method originated about 4500 years ago, and is still in place today, albeit somewhat modified. The fowl are fed a diet that is rich in grain, especially corn (which whitens the liver from its maroon color), and are fattened gradually.

The Fowl

Although goose was originally the only source of foie gras, today duck is also very popular. Duck foie gras is produced from the liver of the Mulard ducks, a cross between Pekin duck females and Muscovy duck males. This species is very resilient against disease and are easier to rear, therefore making duck foie gras not only more common, but also much more inexpensive than goose foie gras.

The Controversy

Who would have thought this decadent treat could be the source of so much gustatory delight, yet also of so much controversy? Animal rights activist claim that gavage is a cruel and atrocious method, and lobby against the foie gras industry.

In reality, the geese and ducks are actually treated very gently and delicately, in order to impart the less stress possible (perhaps for less-than-altruistic reasons, as stress causes the flesh to harden). The feeding tube used is actually pretty flexible and imparts minimum pain to the fowl, and the animals remain stress and disease-free, and as happy as any animal raised for human consumption can be. The bottom line is, when compared to the treatment of other farm animals, this method is actually pretty humane. As with anything, what we eat is a personal choice, up to each and every one of us to decide what we are comfortable with.