The Great Foie Gras Debate

Foie Gras is the fattened liver of a goose or duck and is commonly used in many restaurants throughout the country, particularly in restaurants specializing in what has become know as “fine dining”

Many people consider foie gras as a delicacy.  Others, however, find the use of this food abhorrent.  Over the last few years the production of foie gras has become a major cause of concern amongst many animal welfare groups and organizations.  These groups have gained support from many celebrities, chefs and members of the public alike. Restaurants using foie gras have found themselves besieged by protestors and demonstrations, resulting in poor publicity and falling customer numbers.  In extreme cases some people have experienced property damage with others even receiving death threats. These actions have seen many restaurateurs removing foie gras from their menus.  But why has this particular food, with its origins dating back to the time of the Egyptians, caused such dramatic reactions?

The major cause for concern surrounds the actual farming methods and animal husbandry used to produce foie gras, in particular the use of gavage, to force feed the birds up to four pounds of feed a day, increasing the size of the liver by up to 10 times its normal size. This process involves a tube being placed into the birds’ throat so that a mix of rich grains and fats can be fed directly into their stomachs.  This usually takes place four times a day for the last 18 – 15 days before slaughter.  Kept in terrible conditions and suffering horrendous injuries the plight of many geese and ducks on some foie gras farms is not a happy one.  There is no doubt that these farms should not be allowed to operate; however at the other end of the scale many responsible producers run operations offering the highest standards of animal welfare.  Improving general living conditions, using plastic tubing to reduce injury and assigning key workers to particular groups of animals to build familiarity and reduce stress. http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/12/the-physiology-of-foie-why-foie-gras-is-not-u.html

Some foie gras producers have reacted positively to the increased attention their industry have received and this has resulted in them adopting a more ethical production process which removes the use of gavage altogether, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1543031/Ethical-foie-gras-from-naturally-greedy-geese.html

Obviously it is not possible to ignore the subject of the individual right of choice involved in the usage and consumption of foie gras; and of course most animal products involve some degree of unpleasantness in their production.  In a bid to meet demand for foie gras, whilst acknowledging the suffering involved in its production, some forward thinking companies, such as Waitrose, have developed very good foie gras alternatives and perhaps in the future such products will become commercially available to the catering industry. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/foie-gras-faux-pas-or-faux-gras-1948839.html

http://www.waitrose.presscentre.com/content/detail.aspx?ReleaseID=634&NewsAreaID=2

If commercially produced “faux gras” does not appeal to you why not try making your own?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFX3igmDfwU

Here at Marygreen Manor we take our position within our local community seriously, supporting many local charities and organizations, working with local schools to offer work experience placements and being respectful to our residential neighbors.  Within the last year we have instigated many environmental initiatives and understand the need for our business to operate in a responsible manner. http://marygreenmanor.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/going-for-green/

We have been conscious of the both the commercial and ethical difficulties surrounding foie gras for sometime.  These concerns led us to reconsider our use of this product and earlier in the year it was decided that when our spring menu was introduced foie gras would not be a feature of it.  This menu change will take place at the end of April and we are confident that our customers will understand and support our decision. Of course, as always, we would appreciate hearing your views on this subject and would welcome any comments you would like to make on this blog.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras

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