Food | The Reconnoisseur

The foie gras that leaves a clear conscience

Foie gras without force feeding? It’s possible – and tastes fabulous

The foie gras that leaves a clear conscience

April 25 2011
Paul Richardson

Fresh, whole, real foie gras is one of the world’s legendary delicacies. But now an extra-special version, produced ethically and organically from semi-wild geese, has raised the bar even higher. The foie gras from La Pateria de Sousa, a family company in a village in southern Spain, is unique for its entirely natural process, which relies on the birds’ natural instinct to gorge on lupin seeds and grass in the weeks leading up to their winter migration. The result is a product that ticks all the boxes for superb flavour and texture, organic status, and immaculate ethical credentials.

For generations the Sousa family, natives of Fuente de Cantos in southern Extremadura, have kept geese, potting the fat livers as presents or as a special treat for the family. The product had no presence in the marketplace. What’s more, the idea of a foie gras made in Spain was an anomaly that no one in their right mind would contemplate: the real McCoy was French, and nothing else would do.

The turning point came in 2006, when Eduardo de Sousa won the major prize at the leading food fair in France. Since then his foie gras has been discovered by the global gastronomic community, fêted and fought over by chefs such as Dan Barber of the restaurant Blue Hill in Manhattan, who once served it to Barack Obama and describes it as “the culinary experience of a lifetime”. Sousa’s total production of foie gras barely reaches 750 kilos from 1,000 geese, but he refuses to increase the flock, believing that this would only compromise the welfare of the geese and their environment.

Raised in a semi-wild state, Sousa’s geese spend the winter months ingesting large quantities of lupin seeds – up to one kilo per day, plus another kilo of windfall figs and olives, insects, grass, and whatever else they can find. The traditional system of force-feeding (gavage) is off the menu, enraging French producers who claim that this cannot be true foie gras.

At around £59 for a 250g jar, the result is not cheap. But the price is justified, I believe, by the fabulous richness of this foie gras, its clean taste and suggestion of fruity sweetness, made all the more delicious by the knowledge that animal suffering has played no part in it.

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