Faux gras

February 2009

You all know that foie gras is the (delicious) engorged liver from force-fed French geese, a food product condemned by many as cruel to the geese. But what exactly is faux gras? According to a report in the New York State journal Lancaster Farming, the award for best foie gras, the Coup de Coeur, given by the Paris International Food Salon, went not to a Frenchman but to a Spaniard — Extremaduran goose farmer Eduardo Sousa, who does not force-feed his geese. The double whammy (he’s Spanish and he doesn’t stuff food down their throats) really raised the ire of the Frogs.

One Marie-Pierre Pée (great name for a pissed-off goose farmer), secretary-general of the French Professional Committee of Foie Gras Producers, condemned Sousa’s version because foie gras “is strictly defined as a product from an animal which has been fattened”. Sousa is quoted as rejoining: “We have won a prize in Paris where the jury has given (the French) a clip round the ears because we have shown that you can make a good foie gras without mistreating the animals.” You tell ’em, Eduardo.

New York chef Dan Barber (in 2006 voted Best Chef in New York City) of restaurants Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns said of Sousa’s cruelty-free product that it was “the best culinary experience of my life”. Some praise. But when he tried to buy some of it for his restaurants, Sousa refused, saying “chefs don’t deserve this” because they’d take credit for it and his goose liver was “God’s work”.

And Señor Sousa does love his geese. Dan Barber said that while he was speaking to Sousa he was asked to keep his voice down “so as not to upset the geese”.

I rang a biodynamic farmer who keeps geese in the Adelaide Hills, Quentin Jones of Nirvana Farm, and put it to him that there was a fortune to be made in ethical faux gras. He said it wasn’t as easy as letting the animals just gorge themselves (a bit like dogs, geese will eat until they fall over — the idea of foie gras came from farmers observing this trait as far back as ancient Egyptian times), but that Sousa has a thousand geese free roaming over many hectares of olives and figs.

If there’s an entrepreneurial poultry farmer out there reading this, get into it. Ethical Aussie Faux Gras sounds good. And probably tastes even better

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