Paris start-up develops cruelty-free, lab-grown foie gras

French company hopes gourmet meat product could replace traditional foie gras in countries that have banned it

Get the recipe right and some can't taste the difference between lab-grown foie gras and the alternative (stock image).
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A Paris-based start-up has created lab-grown foie gras after two years in development, after raising €10 million in finance to create its first lab-grown meat product.

"We wanted to show that lab-grown meat wasn’t limited to burgers, but could also be gourmet", Nicolas Morin-Forest, who founded Gourmey, alongside Antoine Davydoff and Victor Sayous, told AFP.

Traditional methods of producing foie gras are controversial, as they involve ‘gavage’, or force-feeding ducks and geese to fatten their livers.

It has therefore been banned in places like California. With New York joining them from 2022, lab-grown foie gras could be the solution.

Read more: Foie gras producers in France oppose UK plans to ban imports

Funding secured by Gourmey will allow the fledgling company to move its foie gras production to a 1,000 m2 site in central Paris, as well as expand their team of around 20 people.

How is lab-grown foie gras created?

Cells are taken from a fertilised duck egg and transferred to an aluminium ‘cultivator’, where they are bathed in a nutritive solution, kept at around 37 degrees.

These cells then divide and multiply, their ‘food’ being adjusted to make them liver cells. After two to three weeks, they are harvested and the texture refined by adding vegetable fat.

The team also works with chefs. "In terms of flavour and texture, we’re 90% there", said Mr Sayous. "Last Christmas, I served Gourmey alongside regular foie gras on toast to my family, without telling them. Some of them were amazed and couldn’t tell the difference", he added.

After scaling up production, which should help keep costs down, the next step will be seeking permission from the health authorities to sell their product.

Currently, only Singapore has approved an American company to sell lab-grown chicken meat, which it intends to use in chicken nuggets. Gourmey, however, will be concentrating its attention on the United States and Asia.

Foie gras in France

  • In 2019, the Interprofessional Committee of Foie Gras Palmipeds (CIFOG) put French production of foie gras at 18,818 tonnes
  • France is the world's leading producer, consumer and exporter of foie gras
  • Around three quarters (72%) of its production comes from the southwestern region, spanning Aquitaine, Limousin, Auvergne and Midi-Pyrénées
  • It comes in various different forms, including cru (raw), entier (whole), (mi-)cuit (semi-cooked/cooked), en bloc (smaller livers moulded together) and in jars
  • As a ‘luxury’ food from France, it is particularly popular at Christmas

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