The Foie Gras Controversy: An Inside Look at Artisan Production in Rural France

Authors: Jean Lavigne*, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: Food geographies, France
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Foie gras is a luxury food that is frequently targeted for bans based on ethical complaints, ranging from force feeding to the destruction of female ducklings en masse (since only males are used for foie gras). Producing foie gras and serving it in restaurants was banned in California in 2012; the ban was lifted in 2015, reinstated in 2017, and is still under appeal. This paper, based on six weeks of full- time immersion and participant observation with small scale producers in the Southwest of France (the home of foie gras), examines whether it is possible for foie gras to be considered a sustainable product – environmentally, economically, and ethically. I argue that a better understanding of the processes involved and of the context, which includes not just the foie gras but the whole duck and its place in the cuisine of the region, is necessary in order to evaluate the question of sustainability. Additionally, the new technology of in-ovo sexing which uses spectroscopy to identify the sex of an egg three days after being fertilized, could eliminate the culling problem within a few years if it is successfully brought to market.

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