Foie gras is a subject of great interest to both animal rights activists and foodies alike, and for good reason: not only is fattened goose liver considered a fine delicacy in the fine food world, but it’s also regarded as anathema to standards of human decency when it comes to treatment of animals.
The following list covers seven reasons why avoiding foie gras is in your best interest.
1. Fatty Food is Bad for Your Heart
Cardiovascular disease is the primary source of death in this country, so you might want to reconsider taking a bite of that fatty liver. Any food that gets over 80% of its calories from fat should probably be eaten very sparingly, if at all. One possible silver lining to all that fat is the fact that, surprisingly, foie gras is composed largely of the ‘good’ kind of fat—with approximately two-thirds monounsaturated and one third saturated fat. Because of this, its fat profile has more in common with avocado or olive oil than lard or butter. Still, considering that there is over twelve grams of fat per one ounce, you should remember that, at the end of the day, fat is fat.
2. It’s Bad for the Environment
Well, in general. That is, not surprisingly, crowded feed pens full of ducks or geese is not beneficial for the health of the soil, nor is it good for air quality when methane rises into the atmosphere as a result of the refuse from large numbers of animals and their unavoidably large quantities of waste. Of course, there are small scale ranchers and farmers who raise animals using environmentally sustainable methods. They tend to be the types of sustainable folks who practice crop rotation, grow produce, and raise animals at a small enough scale that they are helping, not harming, the soil and the water supply.
3. Animal Welfare
The method of producing such fatty livers usually involves artificially feeding geese or ducks using a tube. The reason it is considered inhumane is because the animals are force-fed! As a result, the livers grow much past their normal size. At their largest, geese are unable to walk easily. In order to produce foie gras, it’s necessary to feed the geese an unusual amount of grain. The large amounts of feed—usually in the form of corn inserted into the esophagus with the use of a long tube—fatten the liver more than would occur naturally if the geese were feeding themselves.
It’s important to note that there are some producers of foie gras who don’t force feed their birds—namely Eduardo Sousa, a Spanish farmer who grows olives and figs on his property. Sousa says his geese naturally gorge themselves without having to be force fed because, a.) there is an abundance of food on his property, and, b.) the geese, genetically speaking, believe they’re about to begin a very long trip north, by air—that is, if domestic geese are bred with wild geese.
However, humanely-raised geese who aren’t force-fed are few and far between, so you’ll probably have to go to relatively great lengths in order to obtain ethically-produced foie gras.
4. It’s Too Expensive
This reason is self-explanatory, but foie gras averages $50 a pound. That, alone, might seem enough to boycott the delicacy—even if only because of necessity. However, another reason to snub your nose at the high price is because, after considering the current state of the economy and how many people must go with adequate food and water on a daily basis, can you really justify such an expensive meal?
If you’d like some concrete examples of extremely extravagant menu items, check out this Fleur Burger. It stands out as especially ludicrous since its wagyu beef, foie gras, and truffle ingredients, along with the accompaniment of a 1996 Château Pétrus, bring to total $5,000.
5. Doesn’t Liver Taste Funny, Anyhow?
Personally, I don’t remember liver being the most enjoyable dish I was served as a child. Liver and onions used to be a popular dish back in the Motherland (i.e. England). As a result, it came to the States and was a common staple. Apparently it is nutritious as a source of B vitamins and iron. However, think about it for a second: liver is the ‘strainer’ of the body. It filters all the nutrients through itself, retaining all that is indigestible before sending it on into the intestines and the rest of the digestive track. When you think of it that way, it doesn’t really sound appealing, does it
6. Bottom Line: There are Better Things to Eat
At the end of the day, I’d rather eat traditional cuts of lamb, beef, or duck than fattened goose liver. There are simply more appealing choices out there. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that not only is foie gras an expensive habit to adopt, but at the end of the proverbial day, you’ll be both thinner and less plagued with doubts and guilty nightmares about tortured birds if you skip the foie gras and reach for an avocado, instead!
Featured photo credit: Steven Lilly via flickr.com