Foie gras is decadent and rich because of the large amount of fat stored in the liver of the duck or goose. How this fat gets there is through a process called cramming. As the name implies, the bird is force-fed a large amount of food over a period of time until the appropriate level of “fattened-up” is attained. The process is alternatively known as gavage feeding (from French gaver, to force down the throat). The practice of cramming has been in circulation since the ancient Egyptians; however, it was actually because of the wild geese themselves that the Egyptians learned how to cram.
Prior to the taxing migration season where the geese travel thousands of kilometres without food, the birds must somehow build up enough energy to weather the journey. What they do is eat. A lot. This excess of food energy transforms into fat stored in their liver, and when the Egyptians caught geese before their migration, they were treated to a ultra-rich version of the bird. Eventually, someone pieced one and one together and what was originally a survival technique for the geese has become, ironically and morbidly, something that is quite the deplorable opposite.
Cramming is most widespread in France as this process must occur in order for the resulting liver to be classified legally as foie gras. In other parts of the world, foie gras is not exclusively produced by cramming, instead timely slaughter that relies on the natural fattening up instinct during migration season of the geese is employed.
Whatever the method of attainment, foie gras, in all its plate-top incarnations (pâtés, terrines, mousses, roasted…), is subject to audible protest. If you are passionate about the maltreatment of geese and ducks because of foie gras harvesting, check out No Foie Gras.org.
We do a lot of things to animals. This is yet another thing that compels one to adopt staunch vegetarianism. Fortunately for me, I cannot, for whatever reason, bear the taste of foie gras. Its oiliness and distinct flavour makes my stomach churn. Aside from the taste though, my stomach churns for another reason…