Few delicacies are as controversial as the rich, buttery, cream-like spread made from fattened goose or duck liver, better known as foie gras.
The process of making foie gras is considered extremely cruel, requiring the liver to become abnormally enlarged from a disease called hepatic steatosis. This is caused by gavaging, a process in which the bird is force-fed exorbitant amounts of food through a long metal tube being shoved down its throat, pumping in so much food that the liver swells up to ten times its normal size. Hence why the food item is so expensive, priced at $40-$80 per pound, and banned in both New York and California as well as a handful of countries.
However, one farmer in Spain makes foie gras using no gavaging and no force-feeding. He doesn’t even use cages. His foie gras costs twice as much at a little over $200 for a 180-gram jar. But here’s why it’s worth every penny.
Eduardo Sousa, aka the “Goose Whisperer,” uses a simple system that’s been in his family since the early 1800s and dates all the way back to ancient Egypt.
It works like this: Tamed wild geese roam as they please. The farm is located on a natural migration path, so in the cold winter months, wild geese join the tamed geese on the farm where they feast on grass, acorns, olives, figs and different seeds, which naturally fattens up their liver. Geese particularly love acorns, which Sousa says makes the livers tastier and have a more yellow color.
Even the slaughter is done humanely, using a traditional technique that “hypnotizes” the geese. During the coldest part of winter on a moonless night, Sousa uses a high-powered LED light to stun the geese, which makes catching them easier so they don’t suffer. He says he makes sure they have “a sweet death.”
The livers are then put into a jar and cooked in a wood oven. And voila—delicious, colorful, creamy foie gras with zero cruelty. Plus, Sousa makes sure to also use every other part of the goose to eliminate waste.
This entire process only takes place once a year, and yields no more than 2,000 batches, which (despite their hefty price tag) always sell out. And it’s not just because the foie gras is made ethically. Its flavor is the stuff of legend, winning the highly prestigious Coup de Couer in France. It received its own Ted Talk, for crying out loud.
Despite his foie gras fame, Sousa doesn’t make much of a profit. Instead, it goes back to maintaining the land for the geese. But this is all part of his passion. He hopes to teach others this humane method and to encourage a way of enjoying luxury in a way that is respectful to nature.
“We always say that foie gras is something that should be consumed once in a lifetime. We do not want it to be abused. No matter how much money a person has, they should not abuse consumption. It is something you have to try, enjoy it on a very, very, very special occasion,” he said.
What a beautiful philosophy.