Ariège farm makes foie gras without disputed ‘gavage’

A farm in Pailhès in the Ariège is raising geese without the controversial "gavage" technique

An experimental farm in the Ariège has been raising geese to make foie gras without the use of the controversial “gavage” feeding technique.

The subject is of particular interest at this time of year, at which foie gras is often seen as a traditional part of a Christmas dinner spread in France.

And yet, estimates suggest that over a third of French people have boycotted the product due to the controversial technique of gavage, which sees ducks and geese overfed several times a day with a grain mixture through a tube and spout.

Animals rights groups allege that this often injures and scares the birds, and - as it is designed to provoke excess fat in the liver - is damaging to their health. Foie gras advocates dispute this, but the subject is still seen as controversial, with many countries having banned the product as a result.

Now, a farm in Pailhès in the Ariège is raising geese without the technique, and instead simply feeds its 150 birds normally.

Foie gras is often popular at Christmastime (Nikodem Nijaki / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The birds are instead administered an intestinal bacteria soon after birth, which favours the growth of fat reserves in their liver, to naturally produce the same kind of effect required for foie gras, but without any gavage needed.

The technique was reportedly created by accident in Toulouse, in a scientific lab dedicated to working on cures for human diabetes.

And yet, while the flavour of the (slightly-smaller) foie gras produced is said to be similar to the normal style, the non-gavage product - which the farm hopes to start selling next year - could cost up to six times’ the price of the usual average.

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