Eduardo Sousa is a 3rd generation farmer from Extremadura, a region located in the south west of Spain. Sousa’s family is famous for something that most consider impossible: naturally harvested foie gras. Foie gras has always been a controversial product. It is a delicacy embedded in the French culinary culture that has gained popularity worldwide. However, it comes with a dark side. Geese are migratory birds that frequently change countries. . That means that in order to produce foie gras the birds have to be captured and force-fed through tubes down their throat. The goal being to grow a liver 10 times bigger than normal. With this method he geese grow so fat that they are unable to move, and even get bitten by rats. That’s why a lot of people ask if this delicacy is really worth all the suffering the animals go through.
Fortunately, there is hope. Sousa and Labourdette is a company runned by professor Diego Labourdette and farmer Eduardo Sousa. Diego teaches at the University of Madrid and is an expert in the migration patterns of European birds. Labourdette and Sousa gained knowledge about the natural migration cycle of geese and know that they stop in Spain to regain energy before they continue their journey to Africa. Therefore, Eduardo and Diego optimize the natural habitat for the geese on their land and as a result the birds reconsider their destination and stay. The birds eat what is available on the farm, are slaughtered and the livers harvested just before the geese are ready to fly back North. They capture the birds by using a bright light during the night. This puts the birds in a paralyzed state and limits their suffering. This method is based on an old technique used by hunters in the region.
Although the concept seems perfect, it is hard for Sousa and Labourdette to make a real profit, even though most would agree that an ecological goose farm should be the standard and that geese shouldn’t be tortured with force feeding. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why this isn’t economically viable. First, the unique method of running the farm results in just one harvesting period a year, whereas in traditional foie gras farms the livers can be harvested once every few weeks. Secondly, as natural predators are present in the region, 30% of the geese are killed by them. Finally, creating and maintaining the semi-wild landscape that is optimal for the geese is time-consuming and costly.
Despite the relatively high price there is a high demand for natural foie gras. Consumers who would like to buy the product can reserve it online but know that it may take two seasons before they actually receive the product. While this may seem like a long wait it is definitely worth it!