Via Michael Ruhlman’s blog, I discovered this article in Lancaster Farming about Chef Dan Barber’s trip to visit Spanish farmer Eduardo Sousa, during which Barber says he sampled the best foie gras he had ever tasted.
The big news here is not that Barber had a tasty trip, but that Sousa produces foie gras without force feeding his geese. He just supplies them with as many figs, acorns, nuts and olives as their little, gluttonous hearts desire, stands back, and lets them gorge themselves. Voila—engorged fatty goose liver.
And it’s not just Barber’s opinion that this is great foie gras. It turns out that last year, Sousa won the Coup de Coeur award for the best foie gras from the Paris International Food Salon.
Sousa says that his job is to keep the geese happy. Lancaster Farming reports: “Several times, Barber noted, while he was speaking to Sousa he was asked to keep his voice down ‘so as not to upset the geese.'”
The idea is that happy geese equal outrageously delicious foie gras. In fact, Barber said that eating it was the best culinary experience of his life. But sadly, it won’t be on the menu at Blue Hill anytime soon. Sousa, who sounds like a bit of a nut job, won’t sell it to Barber, saying that “chefs don’t deserve this.”
Personally, I don’t think that traditionally produced foie gras is any crueler than eating meat in general. If you can eat meat without dueling with your conscience, you probably shouldn’t be agonizing over foie gras. In fact, because foie gras producers are often small, family-run farms, they tend to have more humane, natural conditions than the factory farms that produce the supermarket meats that so many of us buy and eat without a thought.
Sticking a tube down a bird’s throat sounds terrible, mostly because we humans are imagining the same done to us. But we have a gag reflex, whereas it’s been reported (here and here) that ducks and geese don’t have that gag reflex, and in fact are evolutionarily designed to be able to gorge and carry fat stores in their livers in preparation for migration.
But, hey, if it can be produced without force feeding, all the better. More foie gras for all.