This post is for Mike who suggested I write about this topic.
I do love foie gras. Nowadays, a lot of attention has been given to that fatty fowl liver, primarily practices used to obtain this delicious item. It is pretty controversial. But so tasty!
Foie gras impressively enough dates back to the ancient Egyptians and from the land of the pyramids and mummies, spread across Europe. In modern times, France leads the way in foie gras production (and consumption), cranking out 18,250 tons back in 2005. Interestingly enough, Hungary made the second place spot five years ago, producting nearly 2,000 tons. Quite a big diff between first and second, huh? The US was fourth after Bulgaria. The species of goose mostly commonly used is the Toulouse goose, and with ducks, it is the Moulard duck.
Duck foie gras is cheaper to produce and therefore more popular in the States. For that reason, I will focus on the duck as our model organism. Ducks do not have teeth and swallow their food (plants and animals) whole. The edibles go into the esophagus and some of it can be stored in a little side part called the crop. Then the consumables travel along to the stomach’s first compartment called the proventriculus and following that, the ventriculus, aka gizzard which is kind of like a trash disposal, grinding the food into smaller bits. Then it’s the small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and cloaca (opening for waste and reproduction). For connections to the reptile kingdom, alligators and crocodiles have gizzards, and the anatomy of the duck’s stomach is quite like that of snakes.
In New York state, foie gras is produced at only one farm, Hudson Valley. This farm raises Moulard ducks which are crosses between male Muscovy ducks and female Pekin ducks. Moulards apparently are some of the best tasting ducks; the breast is called Magret (ah, didn’t know that).
The only other producer of foie gras in the United States is Sonoma out in California. The website chronicles how the ducks are raised; this includes being free-range and all-natural. Near the end of the duck’s life, it is fed by oral gavage (tube down esophagus), putting rich corn meal into the creature. Ducks do not have a gag reflex, how about that?
Foie gras doesn’t have to be liver from plumped up geese and ducks. This variety goes by the monikers fatty goose liver, humane foie gras, ethical foie gras. Foie gras is defnitely legally in France as foie gras entier (purest form), bloc de foie gras (>90% pure), and foie gras specialties (mixed with stuff).
Critics argue that force feeding is unnatural and does not mimic the fowl fatty loading or bulking up for migration. They also claim that condions on farms are cramped and unhealthy. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does not have a stance on the subject; some veterinarians say that foie gras practices are acceptable and some disagree.
Conclusion: foie gras is debatable but delicious.
- http://campus.murraystate.edu/academic/faculty/terry.derting/cva_atlases/canduck/digestsysduck.htm has pictures of a dissected Canvasback duck