Foie Gras – some first hand perspectives

For those of you still undecided on the Foie Gras “debate”, there were two sites who did some work on their own…

First, Michael Ruhlman, over at Megnut, got a first hand account on the gavage process from Eve Felder, a former chef at Chez Panisse and faculty member from the Culinary Institute of America.

I sat in a comfortable small straw lined corral with 6 ducks in 6 corrals on a small stool. The warm mash was poured into the funnel. I held the duck under one of my legs and extended its’ neck upwards and gently opened its’ mouth and inserted the tube to about the top of the chest. As I pressed the machine with my foot, I gently pulled the funnel up until the bird’s throat was filled with mash.The funnel moved across the ceiling from corral to corral.

It was an extremely gentle and intimate experience. The animal does not have a gag reflex. They always waddled away perfectly happy and full and ready for a nap.

Second – Wine Blogger extrordinaire Dr. Vino visited a farm in France and watched the process. He shares his perspective here.

The farmer said that the geese do not have the ability to swallow, which explains why their heads bobbed at the water trough outside: they filled their mouth and gravity took the water down. Nor do they have a gag reflex, which is apparently linked of the ability to swallow. No peristalsis, no reverse peristalsis. He said that conditions were worse for ducks (whose livers are also valued and he does not have) since they are smaller and have less of a group mentality they are force fed mechanically and kept in smaller pens with more per shed.

Whether or not having a feed tube shoved down the throat causes pain to the birds, the fact that they are kept in the dark for this last month of their lives, fed four times a day and rapidly put on weight cannot be pleasant.

More on this later, after I’ve had some time to …er.. digest this.

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