Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
jgm

Another look at the foie gras issue

Recommended Posts

11. What is the carcass recovery methodology? Are breasts and legs harvested? Are carcasses recovered?

Moulard duck breast and legs are harvested from the duck fattened for foie gras.


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[snip...]  Good for you that they're not verbal huh?  Ok and then there is this whole other argument that because we're at the top of the food chain we can do whatever we want.  Think about it and think about history.  People used to treat other people as animals, things that were just there for their own uses.  Slavery anyone?  See, now we know that it was wrong but it took a while didn't it?  Just food for thought people.

I just can't equate a duck with a person. Maybe if they were domesticated or I knew a duck personally, I could.

If it becomes law that we can't eat certain foods, we open the door for saying that we must eat certain foods.


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Um, being a FRUITARIAN is NOT a religious belief, it is a LIFESTYLE choiceWhat is Fruitarianism?, and it is completely separate from being a Jain. I have known both, and they are worlds apart. Jains are not fruitarian, they eat vegetables and grains, and many of them eat roots, too. I don't think that the Jain Dharmic way has anything to do with people laughing at Fruitarians. Let me reiterate, Fruitarianism is NOT a religion.

I know that, thanks, no need to get defensive. I was just pointing out that all yuks aside, there are people that subscribe to eating without killing anything, even plants. There seemed to be some question about that in the posts I quoted.

There was no question of religion, in my mind, as the questioning was about a food choice, not a religious one.

I wondered about moulard, and what happens to the rest of the carcass. I always find farmed duck so fatty, I imagine that these ducks would be even richer, maybe in unctuous. :hmmm:


Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

More Than Salt

Visit Our Cape Coop Blog

Cure Cutaneous Lymphoma

Join the DarkSide---------------------------> DarkSide Member #006-03-09-06

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There was no question of religion, in my mind, as the questioning was about a food choice, not a religious one.

I was responding to the posts quoted in my original post. "Food choices" are influenced by religion, philosophy, and sometimes even by lifestyle, right?


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. . .these are the questions that I think need need to be answered in order for the reader to make an objective and informed choice. . .

These are all valid questions. Foie gras production as all animal husbandry should be done as humanely as possible. That some foie gras producers are not humane is most likely true. They, but not the industry as a whole, should be shut down.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hey, how many people have actually lived on a beef farm?  Raise your hands!  Ok, I have.  My inlaws raise beef and we lived there for a few years in one of the rental houses while we went to collage.  Some true things: they separate the calves  from the moms at a certain age and put them in different fields.  I think I came close to turning into an alcoholic from hearing those calves cry out to their mothers for days.[...]

Perhaps we should discuss this practice in a separate thread on cattle husbandry, but why is it considered advisable to separate the calves from the mothers so early? For veal?

Veal is a byproduct of dairy cattle farming. The separation is because we drink milk and eat cheese.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Off the top of my head about Hudson Valley and Sonoma (Note, I haven't visited HV, but the production process is documented thoroughly in the Ginor book, Foie Gras: A Passion, and Ginor confirms this when you talk to him):

1. Are the chicks hatched on site or bought-in, and from where? What species? Are the chicks allowed to roam outdoors or are they shed-raised?

Hudson Valley has an onsite incubation facility. Sonoma Foie Gras gets its chicks from Grimaud, one day out of the egg. Everyone in the U.S. uses Moulards these days, which are less susceptible to stress than Muscovies or geese. Sonoma Foie Gras's chicks spend five weeks in a large shed with access to the outdoors. This is largely so that they can be kept warm. They spend seven weeks in a large field outside before being brought into the gavage shed. I believe HVFG is similar, but don't know for sure.

2. What is the diet?

Corn, corn, and more corn. Outside the gavage shed, it's supplemented with soybean I believe. Inside the gavage shed, it's straight corn, cooked at Hudson Valley, raw at Sonoma, except for their Artisanal line, which is fed on cooked corn.

4. How are the birds constrained once in the gavage sheds? Metal racks? Are they wet-chilled and air-conditioned during gavage? What are the sanitation proceedures?

They're kept in a pen (10-12 to a 25 sq. ft pen, IIRC). At Sonoma, the building is kept dark and cool (keeps the birds calmer). (Maybe at HV, too, but I don't know). AT HV and Sonoma, the ducks are held between a feeder's legs during the gavage.

6. What is the gavage diet?

See above.

9. What are the abbatoir proceedures? Are the birds shipped for kill or slaughtered on site?

Offsite for Sonoma Foie Gras, onsite for HV.

10. What is the damaged lobe loss ratio? What happens to damaged or bruised lobes or portions/

Both told me that about 70% of their foie is Grade A. Grades B and C don't make much money but can be sold to restaurants for use in certain dishes (the duck/foie gras sausage at Bacar probably uses B or C, for instance), though I don't know how that equates to the cruelty or lack thereof of the process.

11. What is the carcass recovery methodology? Are breasts and legs harvested? Are carcasses recovered?

Breasts, legs, tongues, beaks, bones and so forth are all harvested. Foie gras ducks produce 100% yield in France, about 70% in the U.S., according to Sonoma Foie Gras (the difference is that you rillettes aren't popular here and the feathers aren't allowed to be used for down). Raising a foie gras bird is _very_ expensive, and any farmer would try to get the most money possible out of these birds.


Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
First, I think it would have been useful to visit more than one operation and compare them. My experience is that there is considerable variation in husbandry, technology-levels and methodologies between operations. There is also a differnence in philosophies.

In short, all foie is not created equal.

Hmmm. Your list of pertinent questions leave me feeling rather impertinent in having made up my own mind on this question.

Although my sense of "eat or be eaten" is unlikely to be changed (as I noted, too many years of living in Brooklyn can make one this way) it still would be good to know some answers to that really good and detailed list you had the b. . b. . brains to post.

In the sentence above, you note that your experience is that there is considerable variation in several particulars between operations. I believe you, but would like to hear more if you would wish to jostle your pen into giving us more details upon your specific experiences.

(?)

Pretty please with sugar on top. :wink:

Karen,

Here's a report that was posted previously on another thread, however I modified it slightly this morning to clarify extra-provincial export matters, which define my own approach to consumption. Since that time I have interviewed more foie producers, chefs and lay consumers and have visited another production facility.

Encore un Foie?

The lack of information on foie gras de canard production (for much goes on behind closed doors) prodded me to see for myself in the summer of 2003.

I’m certainly no expert on the production of foie gras, and, as much as I love the stuff have become an infrequent eater of it, especially after it became so very ubiquitous, even in inexpert hands (it deserved much better), a decade or more ago. I regret that it lost its purity, became a plaything -- even a cynical hamburger fixing.

Whereas in France foie gras is a natural wintertime celebratory food (much is consumed between Christmas and New Year's), in North America it has become commodified, an item for Robb Report readers to add to their iconic lists like a vertical of Petrus, the lists that speak to excess cash flow seeking social validation. But not to sound a snot, for even if this class is bereft of good taste, let's assume that more than one of them knows what tastes good. Although some might say that these type of people only had kids so they could get pre-boarding, I have no opinion on the subject.

But not to confuse the issue: Most people, especially those with more than a passing interest in food, eat foie gras because it is delicious and because its unctuous texture is like no other.

Foie gras may soon join Chilean sea bass, swordfish, bluefin tuna and Caspian caviar amongst the verbotten for the Prius set, not for reason of endangerment, but rather for perceived cruelty. But what had struck me as I read the little available literature on the subject was the lack of firsthand information. Most people rendering their opinion, on either side of the issue, had not, it appeared, set foot anywhere near a foie gras production facility.

It's safe to say that the foie reared in Quebec is exemplary; indeed many Canadian and American chefs who have worked with the three main products (Sonoma, Hudson Valley and Quebéçois) believe it the best foie product on the continent. I had the opportunity to inspect two foie gras de canard farms in Quebéc last summer and was even allowed entré into the inner sanctum—the gavage sheds—which, for reasons of disease control and increasing political sensitivity, are usually off limits.

The first farm, south of Montréal, was a fairly large scale commercial operation that is licensed to export product extra-provincially and into the US (and in fact supplies many eastern seaboard US restaurants). It was an unfettered production line with all stages of the process carried out in a carefully controlled environment. Diet, heat, humidity and light were fastidiously calibrated and constantly monitored by computer. It was also a scrupulously clean operation; the main fear being, because of the close quarters, a systemic outbreak of disease.

As the ducklings matured toward gavage, their pre-migratory instinct to gorge was seemingly tricked into action (no matter the time of year--I was there the day before St. Jean-Baptiste Day in late June) via the steady diminishment of light and heat (imitating shorter autumn days), and diet deprivation followed by a spate of abundant feed; deprivation; feed.

The gavage stage (heavily air-conditioned and humidified) was clinical but expertly managed (the speed of the technique is not learned overnight) from a mechanically-forced machine that follows the operator, although the ducks were held in restrictive individual pens within a shed the size of a small warehouse. The actual gavage took just a few seconds. The shed was cold and wet, and the ducks were certainly not running to be fed -- they couldn't budge. The pens were suspended above frequently flushed concrete floors; the shed smelled much as you might expect.

Although the ducks did not appear to protest the gavage, which, again, was both swift and expert, there is simply no way—short of inviting Dr. Doolittle to the party—to know. (A little like being at the dentist with wadding and a rubber dam in your mouth when he asks you the quality check question). But neither did we see any evidence of animals squealing or otherwise behaving in an obviously distressed manner.

Although I asked on more than one occasion, the precise (mainly corn) composition of diet for the ducks is closely guarded; it would be unfair to speculate what, if any, medications might or might not be added to their feed. But it was obvious even to an outsider that bacterial or viral disease could be commercially lethal to this type of closed facility.

What struck me most about this operation though, was the very large size of the finished liver. At over 600 grams, the liver distends below the animal’s ribcage and has an exterior appearance, prior to their trip to the abbatoir, not unlike a human hernia poking through skin. This is the portion of the liver most likely to be damaged or bruised, et voila—pâté .

All of the parts of the duck carcass were packaged in cryovac and sold, in large part to restaurants: the foie, trimmed breasts, value-added legs en confit and pâté, and the carcass for stock.

The second farm, located near Quebéc City, was a somewhat different story. This smaller producer, which used smaller, old (and picturesque) wooden sheds and barns, also revealed a slightly different methodology. The ducklings (hatched off-site) were allowed free range in grassy outdoor pens before being moved indoors to the manipulated environment. But even that seemed a little friendlier: at this stage the ducklings were still allowed to roam in quite large rooms. Unfortunately, (and important for my own regular, future consumption as it would turn out) this farm was not licensed to export either extra-provincially or internationally.

The gavage was similar to the prior operation, but with an important difference: the feed was stopped when the livers were estimated to be at the 400 to 450 gram stage of growth for slaughter, and before any obvious distension had taken place. For regulatory reasons (and much like many of the province’s wonderful cheeses), their product is not available outside of Quebéc, the only Canadian province where it is legal to produce foie gras de canard.

The chef with whom I was traveling, Jean-Luc Boulay, who operates a restaurant in Quebéc City called Le Saint’Amour, visited this operation regularly, as much, I came to feel, for his interest in the welfare of the animals as for the quality of the finished (smaller) product that they gave up. He seemed convinced that the smaller livers were superior—less likely to be granular—and that the ducks knew no suffering. Boulay regularly serves several variations—typical might be a homemade terrine with Sauternes jelly and fig pulp (the original, ancient Egyptian gavage was from a diet of figs); squab stuffed with fresh foie gras; or foie gras seared with fleur de sel, its pan deglazed with cranberries and mango chutney. One can also order a foie gras plat combining several of these.

Without for a minute wishing to prejudice anyone, having seen these two producers, I wouldn't eat from a foie over half a kilo. And because in a restaurant setting in Western Canada, that’s nigh on impossible to verify, I choose to eat it no more here. But that’s an entirely personal choice, albeit one I regretfully add to a growing list of other much-missed foods, especially that other luxe one, Caspian caviar.

In fact, the last foie gras I ate was in Quebéc City, early last summer, from the hand of the master Boulay. It was generous and seared quickly in a hot iron pan, with a top knot of good salt and a fresh, barely warmed compôte of rhubarb that put sweaters on my teeth. Those perfect combinant flavours, plush under their crust and tinctured with the rhubarb, melted away slowly, and then forever.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And once again we return to "Buyer beware."

And in this global marketplace the possible machinations seem so dense as to be sometimes insurmountable, as you note.

Perhaps "buy local" is the key? Is that the only way to really be assured?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And once again we return to "Buyer beware."

And in this global marketplace the possible machinations seem so dense as to be sometimes insurmountable, as you note.

Perhaps "buy local" is the key? Is that the only way to really be assured?

In Canada, Quebéc is the only province that permits foie gras production. So, not only is it impossible to buy from a local producer, the farm (Number 2, as above) that I would be most tempted to buy from is not licensed to export extra-provincially. I suspect that the same challenge is extant for American consumers. And again, although expert gavage does not appear to harm the animals, there are certainly other stress points, chief among them, as I tried to point out above, the size of the finished lobe.

Away from his boss, one of the hands allowed that the distended portion (that part that stuck out under the ribcage) was the 'greed factor'. Although as derricks points out, any contused portions are sold for much less. But they even had a cure for that: a value-added, on-site pâté production facility that produced a myriad of packaged products.

I think the mainstream culinary media has badly dropped the ball on this issue - far too late to the discussion whilst promoting yet more cover stories on brand extensions in Las Vegas and interesting ways to torture skirt steak. Editorial leadership has simply been invisible.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Off the top of my head about Hudson Valley and Sonoma (Note, I haven't visited HV, but the production process is documented thoroughly in the Ginor book, Foie Gras: A Passion, and Ginor confirms this when you talk to him):

[EDIT]

Derrick,

Thank you for your thoughful response to these questions. As I stated above, it's been some time since I read your piece and I apologize if I asked questions that you had already answered in your article.

I am still curious about the following two questions, which, given my own experience at least, are also at the crux of the matter, even if the media and animal welfare activists have focussed on the gavage for obvious reasons:

 7. What is the average weight per harvested lobe? Are the livers permitted to grow outside the ribcage (i.e. more than 500 gram lobes)? (In my experience this is a critical question.)

8. What is the morbidity rate at the chick, pre-gavage and gavage stages?

I'd also be interested to know if you had a more detailed report to file but were constrained by space allocation.

Cheers,

Jamie


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[snip...]  Good for you that they're not verbal huh?  Ok and then there is this whole other argument that because we're at the top of the food chain we can do whatever we want.  Think about it and think about history.  People used to treat other people as animals, things that were just there for their own uses.  Slavery anyone?  See, now we know that it was wrong but it took a while didn't it?  Just food for thought people.

I just can't equate a duck with a person. Maybe if they were domesticated or I knew a duck personally, I could.

If it becomes law that we can't eat certain foods, we open the door for saying that we must eat certain foods.

I'm slightly surprised (given the philosophic and physiological discussion that has always threatens to subsume or even bury this discussion - as it always does) not to see mention of Charles Siebert's article, entitled The Animal Self and published in The NYT Magazine on Sunday, January 22nd. [Note: The original article is now behind a pay-screen, but there are some interesting pro and con discussions via this link].

And now back to regularly scheduled animal cruelty, err, Olympic Hockey.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7. What is the average weight per harvested lobe? Are the livers permitted to grow outside the ribcage (i.e. more than 500 gram lobes)? (In my experience this is a critical question.)

8. What is the morbidity rate at the chick, pre-gavage and gavage stages?

Those questions I was a little fuzzy about, but now that I search my memory a bit, I think HVFG and SFG both track at about 1-2% mortality rates. But I can't remember if that's just during gavage, or total. The number is on par with the rest of the foie gras industry (though caged foie gras birds run at about 3%, I think). Again, from memory (I should probably just unearth my notes and confirm all this), broiler poultry is about 10%.

Lobes that I've seen from SFG seem to average around 1.1 lbs, or 600g. I thought that HVFG tended to get larger livers, due to a different feeding process (the ducks are ramped up more slowly), but it's been a while since I purchased any (SFG is, for obvious reasons, easier to find here in the Bay Area).

See, I'm still fuzzy on these.

I'd also be interested to know if you had a more detailed report to file but were constrained by space allocation.

My editor didn't give me any hard and fast space requirements, but he gave me a rough range to work with. Details I left out were probably just because they didn't fit easily into the text, in the same way that Ed left a lot of biological/physiological info out of his somewhat similar look at "good veal" a few issues prior. There are some things I wish I had put in now--mortality rates, and the very weird state the liver's in by the time the duck goes to the slaughterhouse--but those were more my omission than a requirement from Ed.


Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7. What is the average weight per harvested lobe? Are the livers permitted to grow outside the ribcage (i.e. more than 500 gram lobes)? (In my experience this is a critical question.)

8. What is the morbidity rate at the chick, pre-gavage and gavage stages?

Those questions I was a little fuzzy about, but now that I search my memory a bit, I think HVFG and SFG both track at about 1-2% mortality rates. But I can't remember if that's just during gavage, or total. The number is on par with the rest of the foie gras industry (though caged foie gras birds run at about 3%, I think). Again, from memory (I should probably just unearth my notes and confirm all this), broiler poultry is about 10%.

Lobes that I've seen from SFG seem to average around 1.1 lbs, or 600g. I thought that HVFG tended to get larger livers, due to a different feeding process (the ducks are ramped up more slowly), but it's been a while since I purchased any (SFG is, for obvious reasons, easier to find here in the Bay Area).

See, I'm still fuzzy on these.

I'd also be interested to know if you had a more detailed report to file but were constrained by space allocation.

My editor didn't give me any hard and fast space requirements, but he gave me a rough range to work with. Details I left out were probably just because they didn't fit easily into the text, in the same way that Ed left a lot of biological/physiological info out of his somewhat similar look at "good veal" a few issues prior. There are some things I wish I had put in now--mortality rates, and the very weird state the liver's in by the time the duck goes to the slaughterhouse--but those were more my omission than a requirement from Ed.

Thank you; you really have been most gracious and accessible.

What do you mean regarding 'the very weird state the liver's in?'

And were you aware of any distension of the ducks' skin from the 600 gram (1.3 lb.) livers? (I must admit it's not the first thing that I noticed in the riot of the gavage sheds, but once I did, I saw quite a bit of it.)

Cheers,

Jamie


from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hey, how many people have actually lived on a beef farm?  Raise your hands!  Ok, I have.  My inlaws raise beef and we lived there for a few years in one of the rental houses while we went to collage.  Some true things: they separate the calves  from the moms at a certain age and put them in different fields.  I think I came close to turning into an alcoholic from hearing those calves cry out to their mothers for days.[...]

Perhaps we should discuss this practice in a separate thread on cattle husbandry, but why is it considered advisable to separate the calves from the mothers so early? For veal?

Veal is a byproduct of dairy cattle farming. The separation is because we drink milk and eat cheese.

So maybe people serious about cruelty to farm animals should be boycotting dairy products. I can see why there hasn't been such a hue and cry over that. Imagine, denying milk to America's children. :hmmm:


Michael aka "Pan

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you; you really have been most gracious and accessible.

What do you mean regarding 'the very weird state the liver's in?'

And were you aware of any distension of the ducks' skin from the 600 gram (1.3 lb.) livers? (I must admit it's not the first thing that I noticed in the riot of the gavage sheds, but once I did, I saw quite a bit of it.)

Oh, sorry, should've explained the liver thing a bit more. By the time the duck goes to the Happy Pond in the Sky, certain liver metabolic pathways have just shut down. Others behave normally, and in fact some are performing at better-than-average rates. For those who have the EU study about foie gras around, most of this is covered in section 5.4 (finally! I looked something up), though it's a bit long to quote here.

In terms of distension, do you mean the little pooch they get on their bellies? If so, I definitely noticed it in the birds at the very end of their gavage (I saw birds right at the beginning and right at the end, fewer in the in-between states), though it was consistent with the reports and photos of other foie gras ducks/geese in other areas, so I didn't think much of it.


Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you; you really have been most gracious and accessible.

What do you mean regarding 'the very weird state the liver's in?'

And were you aware of any distension of the ducks' skin from the 600 gram (1.3 lb.) livers? (I must admit it's not the first thing that I noticed in the riot of the gavage sheds, but once I did, I saw quite a bit of it.)

Oh, sorry, should've explained the liver thing a bit more. By the time the duck goes to the Happy Pond in the Sky, certain liver metabolic pathways have just shut down. Others behave normally, and in fact some are performing at better-than-average rates. For those who have the EU study about foie gras around, most of this is covered in section 5.4 (finally! I looked something up), though it's a bit long to quote here.

Here's the European Union Report that Derrick refers to; look for "Liver Function" in Section 5.4 on page 43, although the rest of the report is certainly illuminating as well. The Report says there is up to a 4% morbidity for gavage-stage birds. As Derrick mentions, the effects of steatosis (fattening) are clinically described.

In terms of distension, do you mean the little pooch they get on their bellies? If so, I definitely noticed it in the birds at the very end of their gavage (I saw birds right at the beginning and right at the end, fewer in the in-between states), though it was consistent with the reports and photos of other foie gras ducks/geese in other areas, so I didn't think much of it.

Yes, although I associate the term 'little pooch' more with 'Does my arse look too big in these pants?'

I thought quite a bit about it when I saw the effect on the harvested livers; because it had outgrown the protection of the ribcage, it was area of the liver most vulnerable to damage, presumably from the gavage cages - call it the downside of greed. Not so (as I said above) at Farm No. 2, where they stopped the gavage at an average liver weight below 500 grams, still within the ribcage.


Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took some of my kitchen staff to visit the Sonoma Foie Gras/Artisan farm yesterday as they wanted to see for themselves what I have told them of my previous visits. It was my 5th visit to the farm since the early 1990's.

Having followed this thread, I did ask some questions and will attempt to answer a few of the remaining questions in the "list" upthread that Derricks has not already handled. His excellent posts are totally accurate and in line with my observations.

At SFG they do not use a lighting cycle to create a false autumn. The birds in the managed feeding program are kept indoors in raised pens with about 10 birds to 40 square feet of space. The raised pens allow for easy cleaning/removal of waste. The barns are cooled with "swamp coolers" and under constant intense ventilation to provide the birds with abundant fresh well oxygenated air. The barns are dimly lit as this keeps the birds calm.

The birds are not fed any hormones or antibiotics. The only medication they receive is avian cholera immunization, shots, twice.

The average weight of a harvested liver is just over 500 grams. Indeed, this is the size that I find has consistently the best texture seared.

The morbidity rate is about 2%, slightly lower in cool weather.

There are differences in production methods at all of the farms in discussion. The most important is whether the farm uses pens or cages. Both SFG and HV use pens with ample room for the ducks. One big advantage to this is that the ducks are able to extend and flap their wings. To a duck this is an expression of pleasure and helps alleviate stress. In the small cages they cannot do this.

The other big difference is the length of managed feeding cycle. At SFG it is two weeks, at HV it is closer to a month. The Canadian farms, which use cages not pens, do a slower cycle too, I believe it is 3 weeks. If so, 3 weeks is a long time for a duck to be kept in a small cage.

Animal cruelty is a lot like pornography, the definition may be difficult even for a supreme court justice, but we all know it when we see it. My definition may differ from Larry Flynt, but we're both entitled to our opinions. That being said, I cannot find any cruelty in the gavage process that I have observed many times over the last 15 years. I am familiar with lots of farming operations which practice excellent animal husbandry and SFG (the only Foie Gras operation I have observed directly) has exemplary standards. The ducks do not suffer from gavage, period. It is a quick painless process, far less problematic than many other generally accepted farming practices.

Unfortunately, it is easy to portray the process as cruel. This perception of cruelty is the crux of the matter. The writer of the Bon Appetit article laid it all out pretty well but didn't have the guts to make the call that it is not cruel. I do not suffer from such indecision. I can look the ducks in the eye, satisfy myself that they are not suffering and look forward to eating their livers next week with no guilt.

If I had any doubt, I would simply stop serving foie gras, but it is a fine product raised by fine people I am proud to have as friends.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Terrific post, Ken. I would say that your experience largely parallels my own at 'Farm No. 2', near Quebec City, where the husbandry of the animals was paramount. I would eat their product; unforturtunately we cannot access it here.


from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps a potential solution to the dilemma would be to regulate the industry to certain standards such as those at Sonoma rather than ban it altogether.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good stuff, Ken. Although there are differences in things like cooked versus raw grain and the use of "false Autumn" lighting, much of what you have said, and all the important particulars, agree with that I have heard from visitors to Hudson Valley Foie Gras.


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...