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The Truth About Foie Gras

Updated on November 23, 2010

 

My first experience with foie gras was on a cruise to the Bahamas. My husband, Johnny, ordered beef Wellington for dinner the first night on the ship. I knew what was in the dish, but he didn’t. I decided not to mention the pate.

After he had eaten a few bites, I asked him how he liked it. He stated that it was pretty good, but he didn’t care for the dark stuff on the outside of the beef filet.

“What is that stuff, anyway?”  he asked.

“Pate,” I answered.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Goose liver,” I answered.

He immediately began scraping off all the foie gras with the edge of his knife. At the time, I wasn’t aware of how foie gras is produced.

I’ve never liked liver or any other organ meat, so I definitely don’t care for foie gras. And after I discovered how the birds that the product comes from are treated, I definitely wouldn’t eat it now, even if I liked the flavor. Fellow hubber Ethel Smith put a bug in my ear, so I began reading about foie gras farms.

Foie gras literally means “fatty liver.” It comes from ducks and geese that have been force fed so that their livers will become swollen. In fact, most foie gras fowls have a liver ten times larger than normal. They’re fed a mixture of boiled corn and fat, via a metal tube. The tube is forced down the bird’s throat, and the food is pumped in.

These animals are usually kept in tiny individual crates that are so small the birds can’t even turn around. They can do nothing but stand there or lie there, day in and day out.

Actually, the cruelty in the production of foie gras begins as soon as the birds hatch. The females are immediately killed and discarded because only males are used. Then the ducks and geese are usually allowed to eat naturally for a few weeks so that their gullets will form properly. Then the torture begins.

This treatment is cruel on several levels. The birds get absolutely no exercise. They become grossly overweight and often have difficulty breathing because of their immense girth and swollen livers. During the forced feeding, the animals are often handled roughly, and injuries to the esophagus occur regularly, often resulting in infections.

France is the biggest culprit, producing almost 80% of the foie gras produced. Foie gras can be made from ducks and geese that haven’t been force fed, but to the French, that isn’t real foie gras. They believe that only birds that have been fed by the gavage method – the forced feeding – produce acceptable foie gras because it has a more buttery taste. In fact, unless the liver comes from a force-fed bird, it can’t even legally be termed foie gras in France.

Consumers, especially those outside France, are in an uproar. Many groups have protested against the gavage method, and restaurants are taking notice. Some now refuse to serve liver that was produced by force feeding, while others refuse to serve any foie gras at all. Animal rights groups have also been successful in forcing legislation to outlaw the practice. Israel, Turkey, and some European nations have banned the production of foie gras altogether. In the United States, foie gras is illegal in several cities, and more are considering such a ban. The sale and production of foie gras will be illegal in the entire state of California beginning in 2012.

Foie gras and human diseases

According to the UK’s Sunday Times, scientists have found a link between consuming foie gras and developing Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. Amyloid proteins in the foie gras are the problem. These amyloids are rogue proteins that form insoluble clumps. The clumps damage internal organs, leading to several diseases. In France, a million citizens suffer from dementia. Is it due to their consumption of foie gras? More studies are needed to verify this hypothesis.

Still want foie gras?

If, after reading about the cruel treatment of foie gras birds and the inherent health dangers of consuming the product, you still have a craving for some goose liver pate on your cracker, at least consider purchasing foie gras from producers who don’t use the gavage method of feeding.

Imagine, if you will, being crammed into a closet for most of your short life and having a sharp metal tube forced down your throat several times day and your stomach pumped to the bursting point with food. Now add to that the misery of being so fat you can hardly breathe.

As I have explained before, I have no problem with meat eaters. I eat meat, myself.  I do, however, believe strongly that animals should be treated humanely, including meat animals. And yes, this is entirely possible. I’ve raised and helped raise thousands of meat animals, and all of them were treated humanely and killed quickly.

The difference in taste between foie gras produced by gavage and foie gras that comes from humanely treated ducks and geese is negligible, but think of the difference it would make in the lives of millions of birds.

 

 

 

 

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    • profile image

      johnsafar 4 years ago

      You dumbasses are the worst type of hypocrites. You hate foie gras, the people who make it and eat it, yet you feel eating beef or chicken makes you somehow more "humane"? The meat in hamburgers, bacon, and chicken nuggets don't come from a place any brighter.

    • profile image

      Bobbie 4 years ago

      Animal abuse of any type in every state should be recognzed and treated in the courts as a felony.

    • profile image

      KB 5 years ago

      for all the Foie Gras haters out there, the chickens, pigs (sausage, bacon, etc, and milk you consume, do not come from places much brighter. Foie Gras is great..

    • profile image

      aidee 5 years ago

      Quote:

      "“What is that stuff, anyway?” he asked.

      “Pate,” I answered.

      “What’s that?” he asked.

      “Goose liver,” I answered.

      He immediately began scraping off all the foie gras with the edge of his knife"

      Pate is not the same thing as Foie Gras. Foie Gras is not dark in colour, and is very unlikely to be used in Beef Wellington, as its flavour would be overwhelmed by the pastry.

      I agree that Foie Gras production can be cruel, but to label all Pate in the same way is disingenious to the point of ignorance.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Great idea, Lori! If it would stop cruelty, I'm all for it.

    • profile image

      Lori 6 years ago

      I was recently in treatment and we were watching an educational video about alcoholism, and how it gives a person a "fatty Liver" and I immediately thought of the poor suffering ducks, because I am a former cook, and an animal rights activist. The ducks would suffer so much less if they were DRUNK ?! I would almost feel ok about such a product. Any one have any info on this ?? Would it be too expensive to give them Popof? Has anyone ever tried this? I give permission to any farmers to steal my idea, just please donate any excess profits to SOAR Mpls. members who are incarcerated

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Yuck! I don't care for it at all, 50!

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

      Holle, thanks, never had it, now I never will, 50

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Yen! I don't like the stuff at all. Thanks for visiting!

    • yenajeon profile image

      yenajeon 7 years ago from California

      Habee, I had no idea about foie gras which is strange because I've had it on many occasions! Thanks for the insight.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Yes, ledimi, but humans choose whether or not they smoke. The animals have no choice. Thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Jeffrey. I used to hunt a lot, too, but I think hunting is probably the most humane way to acquire meat. In fact, I wrote a hub about that very topic!

    • profile image

      ledimi 7 years ago

      Hi,

      you know foie gras or others stuffs (candies or other food are made for most of them with chemical stuff) you eat it's not big difference except that is not good for the geese or ducks, in France they are talking to stop it because of the feed but I'm not sure they will because the french people eat that for Christmas and it's big business at this time.

      unfortunately business pass first before animal being.

      but it's the same with human being for example why we still selling cigarettes or alcohol we all know that is dangerous for your health but which pass first business again. Money control the population, it should be the opposite.

      Open you eyes and you will see around you what are the problem

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 7 years ago from Tennessee

      I have never even considered eating this stuff, but I was shocked when a friend of mine who was in culinary school told me about this practice. It is sickening to think about. I'm not part of PETA and I even hunt, but there is no need for an animal to be made to suffer for our tastes. Good hub, Holle!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Audrey! How are ya, girlfriend?

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Janet! That's exactly how I feel!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      I think I'll pass - although I already did - ewwwwwwww but great information

    • profile image

      Janet 7 years ago

      Well done for exposing a very cruel practice. As a vegetarian, I feel SO angry when people think that any cruelty is fine just so long as they can eat what they want, have what they want.

      I accept people eat meat, but the animals should be treated in a humane way and killed in a humane way.

      If your hub can change just a few people's minds then they in turn can influence a few others and it will be worth it.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Msannec, some people will do anything for money!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hey, John! Where ya been??

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Nope, Granny, I wouldn't do this to an animal, either.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Sis, thank goodness I never acquired a taste for this. I don't like caviar, either. Give me good ol' Southern cooking any day! lol

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Yes, Ethel, we're all guilty in one form or another.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Prasetio! How have you been?

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, HH. Ethel told me about it!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I agree, Daisy. I think we can eat meat and still treat animals humanely.

    • msannec profile image

      msannec 7 years ago from Mississippi (The Delta)

      Wow. Thank you for sharing this information. I've never eaten foie gras, and I never will. Treating those poor birds like that, that's horrible! All for money, it's sad.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image

      Hmrjmr1 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

      I join the Chorus here Habee. I'll stick to liverwurst I get from Oscar Meyer. Thanks for the info...

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 7 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      I saw a program on TV. about this. They showed how it was done. Even thogh I don't like duck I would never do this to an animal. Thanks for the info.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 7 years ago from Central Texas

      Yuk -- good Hub but I can't stand this stuff! Thanks for sharing the info as I didn't really know all that much about it except it's taste. Best, Sis

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks for putting this Hub together Habee. It portrays yet another truly sickening treatment of animals all for the sake of someone's palate and particular taste.

      Let's hope that reader's take note and avoid this pate. The French deserve a kick up the bum for what has gone on but then again all countries are, or have been, guilty of maltreatment of animals.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      nice information. I am glad to read this hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Again, habee, you wrote a fantastic hub and with great information. I have never known an dI am sure manydon't either. Well done. Keep beating the drums. Thank you.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      I just can't believe how cruel people can be to innocent animals. I mean I eat meat too but that is ridiculous. It should be against the law.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I just learned about it recently, Veronica. Ethel Smith asked me to write a hub about it. I don't care for foie gras, either - no matter how it's produced!

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

      I was shocked when I read this. I actually sat and read to my husband and he was appalled as well. I've never eaten Foie Gras before, I never even heard of it until now. Rest assured it will not be a part of any menu of mine. Thanks for such a detailed expose

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Good for you, Bpop! Don't give Scotty any, either!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      I actually saw this on tv and it convinced me not to ever eat it!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I'll never understand it, either, Lily. Sad.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      I've heard of foie gras quite a bit but never really knew what it was, so this was an interesting read, thank you. Now that I know, I will stay even farther away from it!! I don't eat too much meat, and when I do it's either beef or chicken - I just can't wrap my head around other kinds of meats.

      Although I hate ducks in general, the treatment that they get in this process you describe is horrific; I don't understand how anyone with even the slightest bit of humanity can do such a thing to an innocent animal!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      It is really disgusting, Sheila! Glad you stopped by!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      Thanks for reading some of my writings. I've read about this practice, and as you said, it really doesn't make sense because liver is liver. I suppose it's been done in order to give it a fancy name and charge more. And that's really disgusting!