Monday, December 17, 2007

Sauce for the Goose

French producers of foie gras complained about it:
Eduardo Sousa cannot cope with the worldwide demand this Christmas holiday season for his "ethical" foie gras, produced without force-feeding the geese -- a success he puts down to a French outcry over his methods.

When he won an award at a Paris food salon last year, French producers protested, arguing that "foie gras" must come from the traditional "gavage" or force-feeding method. The publicity that generated led to massive orders this year.

"From England, the demand we have is quite astonishing, from restaurants, from anyone who wants something natural," he said at his sprawling farm in the rolling hills of western Spain's Extremadura region north of Seville.

....Sousa's geese roam freely around his 22-hectare (54-acre) farm where they feed mostly on acorns and grass, but also figs, lupins and olives at different times of the year.

The birds, their bellies swollen, rush excitedly among the rows of small oak trees in the bright winter sunshine pecking up the acorns that carpet the hills, as Sousa looks on like a proud parent. Two ferocious-looking dogs patrol the fields in case of predatory foxes.

The birds' livers swell naturally as they fatten themselves up for what would be a migratory winter flight south to Africa.

....When their bellies begin scraping the ground, they are ready for slaughter, which is done by first gassing them to sleep, in a process overseen byveterinarians.

"Stress produces tougher meat, so it's better if the goose is relaxed when it dies," he said.

....In 2006, Sousa was awarded the "Coup de Coeur" prize for innovation for his "gavage-free" foie gras at the Paris International Food Salon.

At first, it did not create much of a buzz.

"It was a tremendous thing, but nothing happened afterwards," he said. "It was when the association of French producers released a press statement (in protest) that demand soared."

Because of the publicity, he now has 50 times as many orders as last year.

"It wasn't very smart of (the French producers). I don't think they thought it through."

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