The blog of cooking-ez.com

Foie gras without force-feeding: it can be done


44K 20 4.4
Grade this page:

Last modified on: December 15th 2014

Foie gras without force-feeding: it can be done

Foie gras


I adore foie gras...



I willingly admit it, I adore foie gras: the texture, the taste, the festive aspect – I enjoy all of it. I really love eating it, preparing it and, most of all, sharing what I have made with my family over Christmas and New Year.

...but then I begin to have doubts


Of course, when I unwrap my raw foie gras to prepare it, I have no illusions. I know that in order to get this lovely foie gras, the duck or goose has been force fed (the process known as “gavage” in French) and that it is hardly ethical.

It is easy to say, but I do have a problem with this force-feeding, so I try to do everything I can to lessen its impact by buying only the best quality livers possible, of certified origin, the French “Label Rouge” (red label) in particular, and now we are starting to see the way animals have been reared stated on the label. I try, as far as possible, to avoid the industrial-style battery farms in which such dreadful scenes have been photographed by hidden cameras.

I am just salving my conscience, you might say and, of course, you would be right, making out that it is cruel but inevitable.

I already knew that, left to their own devices, geese will gorge themselves at the start of winter, eating more than usual to build up their reserves. This is the process accentuated by gavage, a process that dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, who learned it from the Hebrews.

Gavage chez les égyptiens



Eduardo and his geese


That is as far as I had got until I heard recently (thanks, Alison) about Eduardo Sousa.

Eduardo Sousa


Eduardo is a Spanish farmer who rears geese in Estremadura, Spain. His geese live in semi-liberty and eat what the farm produces or has growing naturally: acorns, olives, grain, seeds, etc.

On his farm, he produces a natural foie gras from these geese, without force-feeding, relying simply on their propensity to eat more as winter approaches. At this time, the geese are given as much as they want to eat.

So, the idea is incredibly simple: before the winter cold arrives, just feed the geese as much food as they want and they will stuff themselves quite happily (I'm not sure that “stuff” is quite the appropriate term here, but still…). The liver swells and, after slaughter, this can be made into foie gras.

Of course, this method doesn't produce the huge livers of conventional gavage; they are smaller (200-250g as opposed to 400g on average), but have a better flavour, apparently. As the geese are not eating maize, their livers are – or, rather, were – greyish. This did not affect the flavour, but was less appealing to the eye. To compensate, Eduardo planted yellow lupins and, after eating these, his geese now produce livers with the sought-after delicate yellow colour.

And that is not all that comes with Eduardo's production method: to make foie gras, you need goose liver, salt and pepper, then you cook it, that is all – with no alcohol or spices added.

Foie gras Eduardo Sousa


So what does this method do for the flavour? Impossible for me to say, as I have not (yet?) tasted it, but when you know that in 2006, Eduardo won the much-coveted “Coup de Coeur” (favourite) prize at the Salon International de l'Alimentation, Paris (Global Food Marketplace), making it de facto the best foie gras in the world, that tells you something.

Note that French producers were particularly peeved, trying to argue that this wasn't “proper” foie gras because of the weight.

Dan Barber, an American chef, who has given a TED talk about Eduardo, talks about how incredible the taste is: he was aware of aromas and flavours that would be logical if this or that spice had been added, yet this is not the case. He tells of how he was ready to bet that it contained aniseed; he could taste this distinctly, but no.

Can I try some?


From what I have found online, it appears that this is almost impossible to get hold of. All of it is bought up, even well in advance, by the very, very rich (Emirs from the Gulf, the White house, etc.).

But there is hope: Eduardo has started working with a Frenchman, Diego Labourdette, to produce foie gras by the same method in the south-west of France. We will not be seeing it supermarkets yet, of course, but at least we will be able to order some…

Foie gras Labourdette-Sousa



A few links:


Eduardo's own farm website: www.lapateria.eu
Website of the joint farm with Diego Labourdette: sousa-labourdette.com
Dan Barber's TED talk: A Foie Gras Parable


Back to top of page

Lasts posts
Toss the salad
Toss the salad
When you've finished preparing a salad, green or otherwise, it's usually time to add the dressing and toss. It's often said to "toss the salad", which means to season and mix. Is it easy? Not so easy...
2,0095 March 8th 2024
Half milk, half cream
Half milk, half cream
In a multitude of recipes, savoury or sweet, milk is used as the main ingredient, or at least as the main liquid ingredient. Milk is used instead of water, for example, because milk contains a proportion of fat, which adds roundness and softness to the recipe. This mellowness is very pleasant on...
2,056 February 27th 2024
Cutting soft cheeses
Cutting soft cheeses
As you may have already noticed, when you have to use a "soft" cheese in a recipe - their exact name is "soft cheese" - such as Camembert, Munster or Mont d'or, it's not easy to make anything other than thick slices.
2,1885 February 20th 2024
It's spinning too fast!
It's spinning too fast!
When you need to grate or slice vegetables, you generally use an electric machine that does all the work: a food processor, a mixer with a "slicer" extension or similar. Are these machines really suitable? Generally speaking, yes of course, but there's one criterion that often poses a problem,...
5,0615 November 12th 2023
When I was a kid, I didn't like...
When I was a kid, I didn't like...
Maybe you've already made this strange observation: when you were a kid, there were things you hated, but as an adult it's almost the opposite? For example, you used to hate spinach or chicory, but now you love it?
4,6885 November 5th 2023
Other pages you may also like
Butter doesn't make you fat, unless you eat too much of it.
Butter doesn't make you fat, unless you eat too much of it.
Whenever I'm discussing cooking and recipes, there is one idea which comes up frequently, like this: "Oh no! But that's got butter in it" (I should add, for the sake of accuracy, that this is something I hear more frequently from women, who are almost all concerned with keeping their figure). ...
37K4.5 March 26th 2012
The beautiful story of the croissants
The beautiful story of the croissants
As you may have already noticed, cooking, baking and pastry-making are full of stories or legends, usually very romantic, about this or that product or recipe. This is often the case for named recipes, for example tarte tatin, peach melba, paris-brest and many others, but it also applies to very...
13K5 October 10th 2018
The French baguette and UNESCO
The French baguette and UNESCO
As you may have already read here or there, France has initiated for some time the procedure to try to have the French baguette classified as an intangible world heritage by UNESCO. When you put it like that, it sounds a bit namby-pamby, and it would be tempting to imagine an American (for...
10K4.9 March 18th 2020
The window-pane test in bread-making
The window-pane test in bread-making
The home bread-makers often ask themselves “Have I kneaded my dough long enough?” . A good question, as dough that is insufficiently kneaded will not rise properly or will fall flat when the top is slashed, which is very frustrating. To know when the dough is ready, one can rely on the length...
86K 23.9 June 16th 2021
What is the difference between bakery and patisserie?
What is the difference between bakery and patisserie?
This is a question that you may well have asked yourself and which I will attempt to answer. In France the two trades of "boulangerie" (bakery) and "pâtisserie" (patisserie and confectionery) have always been quite distinct, but where exactly do the boundaries lie? .
119K 14.1 February 7th 2017
Follow this page
If you are interested in this page, you can "follow" it, by entering your email address here. You will then receive a notification immediately each time the page is modified or a new comment is added. Please note that you will need to confirm this following.
I am not a leaving thing
Note: We'll never share your e-mail address with anyone else.
Alternatively: you can subscribe to the mailing list of cooling-ez.com , you will receive a e-mail for each new recipe published on the site.

Back to top of page