Foie gras is a delicacy produced from the liver of a duck or goose. Foie gras is defined by French law as the fattened liver of a duck or goose obtained through gavage (force-feeding). It is infrequently produced through natural feeding in Spain and other countries.
For 12.5 days, ducks are force-fed twice a day, while geese are force-fed three times a day. Ducks are usually slaughtered after 100 days, whereas geese are slaughtered at 112 days.
In French cuisine, foie gras is a popular and well-known delicacy. Unlike normal duck or goose liver, its flavor is regarded as creamy, buttery, and delicate. Foie gras can be purchased whole or prepared as a mousse, parfait, or pâté, and it can also be served as a side dish with another dish, such as steak. “Foie gras is part of France’s protected cultural and gastronomical heritage,” according to French law.
It is mostly served on special occasions in France, such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve réveillon meals, though foie gras has recently become more widely available, making it a less unusual dish. Foie gras is consumed all year in some parts of France.
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Duck foie gras is slightly less expensive and, since a switch to battery production methods in the 1950s, by far the most popular, notably in the United States. Duck foie gras is known for having a musky flavor with a hint of bitterness. Goose foie gras is known for being less gamey and smoother than duck foie gras, and for having a more delicate flavor.
Foie gras creates quite a stir for a small-plate entrée. This buttery French delicacy made from fattened duck or goose liver may cost up to $125 for 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms). Foie gras is contentious for reasons other than its high price tag.
Its manufacture necessitates the force-feeding of birds to expand their livers to up to ten times their usual size. Many animal rights advocates have characterized the practice as harsh and agonizing, and government decision-makers have taken notice.
Although there are around 1,000 restaurants serving foie gras in New York City, the City Council voted on Oct. 30, 2019, to ban the dish beginning in 2022. For animal rights grounds, New York will join California, Australia, India, and a slew of other states that have banned foie gras. Foie gras was removed from Whole Foods’ shelves in 1997.
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Table of Contents
Why is it a Delicacy?
Foie gras is a duck or goose liver that has been fattened using gavage, a labor-intensive force-feeding method. According to the Artisan Farmers Alliance, a group representing foie gras farmers, the method dates back to ancient Egypt, when Egyptians force-fed domesticated geese after discovering that “waterfowl acquired huge, fatty livers after ingesting large amounts in preparation for migration.”
In the late 16th century, the practice of gavage expanded across the Mediterranean and into France. In 1779, French chef Jean-Joseph Clause is credited with inventing the first foie gras pâté. In 1784, he received a patent for the dish. According to The Spruce, he received 20 handguns from the food-loving King Louis XVI as a “thank you” for his culinary prowess.
Foie gras has a silky texture and a rich flavor that has made it a mainstay of France’s culinary tradition. It’s usually made into a pâté with brandy, herbs, and truffles, pureed and spread on toast, baked in a terrine, or grilled whole. Due to the force-feeding labor and large volume of feed required to generate the ultimate result, it is extremely expensive. Ducks and geese can consume up to 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) of maize feed per day.
Why is Foie Gras expensive?
California’s foie gras ban, which went into force in 2012, was upheld by the Supreme Court in early 2019. Even in the European Union, which produces 90 percent of the world’s foie gras, force-feeding is prohibited in only a dozen countries. That’s why a pound of foie gras may cost up to $90 when purchased whole, and that’s before it’s served. The preparation of foie gras necessitates competence.
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What has made Foie Gras so controversial?
The invasive practice of gavage has been a major concern.
Farmers compel ducks and geese to take “fatty, corn-based feed through a tube placed into their mouths” as part of this operation. Their livers can expand up to ten times their original size, earning them the moniker “foie gras” (a French phrase for fatty liver) and raising concerns among animal rights activists. That’s why animal rights groups in New York rejoiced when the foie gras ban was passed.
Matt Dominguez, a political adviser for NYC-based Voters for Animal Rights (VFAR) stated that New York sent a clear message to foie gras producers that forcing large amounts of grain down a duck’s throat for the sole intention of disease and enlarging their liver is cruel and has no place in our compassionate city. When Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the foie gras prohibition into law on November 25, 2019, VFAR members approached him.
Gavage can lead ducks to hyperventilate and bleed, according to the VFAR website, and they’re frequently tethered and have their throats slashed during slaughter. That’s why the organization joined a coalition of more than 50 NGOs in support of Senate Bill 1378, which outlaws “storing, maintaining, selling, or proposing to sell force-fed products or food containing a force-fed product.” Violators will face fines ranging from $500 to $2,000 for each incident after the ban takes effect in 2022.
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Farmers’ Reaction to the ban.
While Dominguez and other animal rights activists hailed the foie gras ban as a win, people on the other side of the aisle are fighting back. The Catskill Foie Gras Collective, which includes the city’s principal foie gras producers, is fighting the prohibition. It is unconstitutional, according to the group and farmers, and NYC does not have jurisdiction over the state of New York’s protected agricultural companies.
According to Marcus Henley, president of the Catskill Foie Gras Collective, animal rights advocates are the only ones who believe foie gras manufacturing is barbaric.
“The most misinterpreted aspect of foie gras production is the concept that the little tube used to feed the ducks causes agony,” Henley explains. “Ducks aren’t the same as people. Their physiologies are vastly different, and the tube does not affect them.”
The ducks in the collective are cage-free, fed through a small rubber tube (rather than a standard metal tube), and individually examined by a government food safety officer, according to Henley.
Members of the collective defend their approach to foie gras production, and they aren’t the only ones who oppose the prohibition.
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Many towns throughout the world have banned foie gras because it is produced in an unethical manner, including force-feeding ducks and geese to inflate their livers to 10 times their usual size.
Animal welfare issues concerning force-feeding, extensive living and husbandry, and expanding the liver to 10 times its normal volume make gavage-based foie gras manufacturing contentious. Force-feeding, as well as the production, import, or sale of foie gras, are illegal in several nations and jurisdictions. Even in states where it is legal, some businesses refuse to stock it.