The blog of cooking-ez.com

Foie gras without force-feeding: it can be done


34K 7 3.7
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

Other pages you may also like

The golden-brown finish on puff pastry
The golden-brown finish on puff pastry
Is this really a problem? Well, yes, as there is no sugar in the pastry – it is just flour, water and butter – so it does not naturally brown well during baking. We need to understand that, even if it is fully cooked, pale and colourless pastry looks pretty unappetising. To overcome this,...
23K 24
What can I use for blind baking a pastry case?
What can I use for blind baking a pastry case?
1) Pie-weight chainThis is a long string of stainless-steel beads which can be coiled in the pastry case. It's not too bad for keeping the bottom flat, but does little to stop the sides falling in.2) Baking beadsThese are either metal or ceramic and can be poured in to give an even layer in the...
66K4.1
Should a sausage be pricked before cooking?
Should a sausage be pricked before cooking?
A sausage, well a good one, that is to say not an industrial by-product, is a piece of gut in which is threaded a mixture of meat, spices and salt. The casing is closed at both ends, and the sausage thus formed is put to dry or to smoke. Molène sausage for example, Morteau sausage (the best in the...
24K2.4
Different kinds of pastry and dough
Different kinds of pastry and dough
Here is a brief overview of these different doughs.[Translator's note: in French, all doughs, pastries, batters and pasta are covered by just one word: “pâtes” , a feature of the original article that has been somewhat lost in this English version!]Shortcrust pastryShortcrust pastry...
87K 13.7
Steam for baking bread
Steam for baking bread
So steam is indispensable: there are no beautifully browned, crusty loaves without it. You should note that once the crust is formed in the oven, after about 15 or 20 minutes, the steam is no longer necessary, so there is no need to keep adding it for the rest of the cooking time. Creating steam...
111K4.3

Post your comment or question

I am not a leaving thing

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 email 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