La Gaveuse and Le Gavage – How Foie Gras is Made

Today we went to the local foie gras farm. GB met the farmer at the Thursday market where she sells her foie gras every week. She lives about two miles down the road from Monflanquin and gives a tour on Monday mornings. Sign us up! Of course we went.

“La gaveuse” means the woman who force-feeds the geese, or a geese/foie gras farmer, traditionally women’s work. The word comes from “gavage,” which is the process of force-feeding the geese. La gaveuse explained the entire process of raising the geese, force-feeding the geese (gavage) to enlarge their livers, and slaughtering the geese to make all manner of geese food products. We didn’t get to see any force-feeding because she does not start that process until September. There are places that are force-feeding now, in the summer months, but she prefers not to do that because that is “agribusiness” and she is doing things in the old-fashioned way (les autrefois), like grandma would. In that world, gavage occurs in the fall (fattening them up for the holidays).

In short, our gaveuse was completely awesome. I wish I had been able to understand more of her tour, but it was all too overwhelmingly fantastic, what with the geese, the farm, the foie gras, etc. Died and gone to heaven! Also there were just a lot of words in French that I’d never been exposed to.

The Man asked me if there are any politics around foie gras in France. I don’t think so. I never heard anyone mention anything about that and foie gras is everywhere in this part of France. It’s one of their traditional food products. To suggest that they shouldn’t make it would be like telling Americans they can’t make hot dogs anymore.

I understand now the difference between the small gavage operation like what I saw and the bigger agribusiness operations that GB has visited. To say that people could not raise geese using gavage on a small scale would be a bit extreme to me, now that I’ve seen the actual machine, the farm, the woman who does the gavage, and the geese. It did not look cruel to me, at least no more cruel than what we do to chickens and cows to eat them. La gaveuse had a relationship with the geese that suggested the gavage was done as humanely and quickly as possible. Also, it’s not like they fatten up the geese, cut out their livers, and throw the rest to the dog. They use every part of the animal for other products, as it should be.

Geese in front of a field of wheat

This is the contraption used for gavage. Note the pipe that goes down the throat.

This is the corn mash that is fed to the geese.

Foie gras shop at the farm.

Foie gras shop at the farm.

Foie gras products.

Foie gras products.

Duck grease in a can. MMMMM!

Duck grease in a can. MMMMM! One of the best things I ate there.

The tripod border collie, now retired from geese-herding service.

The tripod border collie, now retired from geese-herding service.

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Filed under farms, foie gras, France

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