THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?
Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can…
We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives…
“They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s way of thanking us for providing so much good food for the geese.”
This sharing attitude eventually makes him more money!
But it is not just him that has to share. The geese do as well, when they lose half of their eggs to hawks. That is half of his potential profits, but is it a problem?
“I don’t think so. It’s why nature has a goose lay so many eggs. There has to be enough to pay the revolutionary tax for living outside.”
How great is that?
A Foie Gras That Looks Funny
Eduardo’s foie gras is different. Normally foie gras has a yellow colour, which comes from corn. But his livers are grey, so people wouldn’t buy them. Then one day his geese spent the time on his farm eating lupins. He noticed it changed the colours of their livers to the yellow that was expected.
So now he allows the geese to feast on lupins.
They also eat the acorns from the Holm Oak, which is what gives the famous Jamon iberico its distinction too.
“The geese eat tons of acorns, but if they don’t move around, if they don’t eat all this grass, the acorns are nothing.”
He thinks the grass makes the acorns taste sweet, so more grass means the geese eat more acorns. Healthy animals not just eating fat, but getting balance in their diet.
“The aim of a goose it to seek conditions that are conducive to life, to happiness. When they come here, that is what they find.”
And so Eduardo finds many wild geese come to his farm, and stay. Can you imagine a chicken going to a poultry farm in the UK and wanting to stay?
The Taste Of His Foie Gras
Is described as a sweet, deeply flavoured livery liver. ‘It was a whole lot of liver flavoured by a little fat,’ rather than the other way around, as you normally find with foie gras that is farmed.
“The fat should be integrated, should carry the flavour.”
Eduardo says he seasons his livers in the field, before the harvest. That if they are fed plants with a salinity to them, they will be salty, whilst other plants provide peppery qualities. So he makes available the plants they might like, then they decide what to eat.
It makes me wonder could you raise other animals on land that flavours them as you go. Pigs on coffee plantations perhaps? After all, with wine people talk about how the terroir (the land) gives a flavour to the product. It also suggests each part of the food chain that the final product feasts on must be good.Or else the flavour is affected all the way along.
The Personality Of A Goose
Eduardo knows you cannot force a goose, you cannot mollycoddle it.
“What’s winter to a goose that’s had food delivered to him for six months? Geese are too smart for this. Why gorge when they know the next meal is coming? They cannot be tamed. They have to feel wild to kickstart that instinct for gorging.”
They must work within the bounty of the seasons, they must forage in amongst the trees of the Dehesa as well as in the pasture. This work foraging also helps change the flavour, as the animal is working, moving the body.
Dan Barber speaks in his book about how tasting this foie gras makes you think about the goose, the ecology behind it, the culture and cuisine that supports this system of eating….
“Our modern way of eating supports the opposite. It dumbs down nature. It makes a duck liver – or a loin of lamb, a chicken breast, or a cheeseburger – taste the same whether you’re in Scarsdale or Scotsdale, in June or January. Which, in a way, dumbs us down too.”
You can read more about ethical foie gras in the brilliant, brilliant book by chef Dan Barber ‘The Third Plate’.
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