Does the eating foie gras make us Torquemadas of duckdom?
I was always a little scared to know the answer. We all know the basics of foie gras manufacture. Ducks are force fed calorie-dense food a few times a day for several weeks, until their livers get fatty and enormous – up to a tenth of the bird’s total bodyweight. It all sounds a bit like torture, doesn’t it?
I was a little scared to know for sure – because foie gras, of course, is mind-blowingly delicious. If it truly was as miserable for the ducks as it sounded, I’d probably never have another; however, even just the gnawing suspicion I had had been enough to keep me from having any foie gras for a couple of years at least.
That’s about to change. Check out this great piece by Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats about the suffering (or, as it turns out, lack thereof) at one of America’s big three foie gras producers has me looking for my next fix. The highlights:
1. There’s nothing inherently less humane about foie gras production vs. meat production. Just like with meat in general, there are good farms and bad farms. The article says that there are only three foie gras producers in the USA and they treat their animals well.
2. The reason we perceive it to be so torturous is that we anthropomorphize the birds; in fact, they’re far better equipped to having a feed tube put down their throats than we can possibly imagine – check this out:
3. Birds also regularly gorge themselves with food without our help. Birds get all Hungry Mungry to amass the fat stores to get them ready to migrate. Though we do push their natural envelope a bit with the feedings, they don’t appear uncomfortable at all during the gavage or in their day-to-day lives as a result.
4. Foie gras tends to get vilified by politicos because it allows them to appear tough on animal rights while not affecting the 99% of registered voters that never eat it. People in general get much more passionate about the humane treatment of animals when the animals in question are ones they don’t eat. Don’t get me started.
So enjoy! The farm Lopez-Alt visits, which received high marks for animal welfare, can be found here.