In this week's issue we revisit one of the most controversial ingredients available, one that has divided the dinner table for years: foie gras.
On the one side there are those who consider the fatty duck and goose liver the ultimate delicacy; on the other there are those whose concerns over its production make them push their plates away. But from a chef's point of view how do you make an ethically sound choice?
Literally French for "fat liver", foie gras is produced by the process of force-feeding, which results in a bird's liver becoming enlarged with an increased fat content. It's the guilt over this practice that has grown into an international campaign by animal rights activists and concerned individuals to have foie gras banned on animal welfare grounds.
The city of Chicago outlawed the sale of it back in 2006 and later this year the state of California will follow suit. And although such a ban is unlikely to happen in Europe, reports into the welfare aspects surrounding foie gras production have delivered conflicting evidence. The bottom line seems to be that while there are foie gras farms that value the welfare of their ducks, there are still those where caged birds with scarred gullets are forced to gulp down mushed-up grain from metal tubes. And with a reported 90% of foie gras in the UK coming from such industrial farms, it seems that chefs choosing to serve it have a responsibility to look into the ingredient's provenance.
As Mark Poynton, chef-patron of Restaurant Alimentum in Cambridge, advises: "Ask the name of the farm from your supplier. If they say they're not sure then it's probably not a reputable source."
By Kerstin Kühn
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