In line with the tenants of the Food Movement, it is possible for foie gras production to move toward “sustainable farming” practices, so that its delicious, rich tastiness is available for many to try and experience. Often a term that gets throw around, in this case, sustainable farming means the elimination of gavage, not foie gras farming. Dan Barber’s inspirational TED Talk, “The Foie Gras Parable,” introduces Spanish farmer Eduardo Sousa’s unique method of harvesting foie gras. No gavage is performed at Sousa’s farm, but rather he tends to the land to “give the geese what they want.” Geese naturally stock up on food before the wintertime, a way of fattening themselves up before the cold ascends. However, Sousa’s geese do not migrate south after they feed, but stay on the farm, as its conditions are preferable and comfortable for them; delicious herbs inhabit the grounds, encouraging the animals to hang around, feed, and mate.
This is the idyllic image of the non-industrial farm. Sousa creates foie gras, not for mass production, but for his local restaurant and its visitors. While his unique farming techniques are a result of years of trial-and-error, he relies on what Mother Nature has to offer. In Northern California, chefs and farmers apply similar methods to the slow food movement: take food that is fresh from the earth, and on that day, cook with it upon arrival in the kitchen. Though, these are elite ideas about exclusive foods and restaurants that few have access to. Only a subgroup of the wealthy can afford to splurge on foie gras or make a trip to Spain to taste some of the most delicious forms of the food, right? However, the fight for foie gras is a matter of choice and the education in making that informed choice. The problem isn’t the price tag on the plate of goose liver, but the absence of knowledge in how it got to that plate; it is the regulation and consciousness of the food’s production space that must be publicly addressed before foie gras vanishes altogether.
With alternative farming methods, like Sousa’s, why is it that foie gras is banned in multiple countries? Is there no room for progress outside of the gavage practice? By regulating foie gras production, we prohibit the dispersal of new ideas around alternative farming. Thus, a clear-cut ban, which is what we have today in foie gras law, eliminates any option for a citizen’s right to choose where and when they wish to eat foie gras. A shift in farming, which relies on just the land and animal behavior, without machinery, will be one step in the process to educate eaters about how foie gras can be done right. Barber concludes in his talk that the “most ecological choice is also the most ethical choice,” with regards to foie gras farming. If we can inform individuals about the lifespan of a restaurant’s foie gras, we can transform the industry to one about food, taste, and transparency, not productivity. It is possible to erase the mega-farm mentality in the very small industry of foie gras (there are just three producers in the U.S.) by allowing individuals to try foie gras, created and tended to by caring farmers.