The bas-reliefs at Saqqara, near Memphis in Egypt, show workers forcibly feeding wild geese and cranes in the 6th dynasty (2300 BC, Mereruka mastaba). Apicius’ (De Re Coquinaria) first century treatise on cooking, Pliny’s natural history (23-79 AD Naturalis Historia), or Palladium’s agricultural treatise (480 AD Opus Agriculturae) describe the forced fattening of goose with dried figs to obtain jecur ficatum (liver greased with figs), a delicacy so appreciated that it has served to designate the word “liver” in the Romance languages. After the fall of the empire, this tradition continued in the Jewish communities that used to replace butter with goose fat for cooking. The Jews subsequently extended the production of goose foie gras in France, especially in Alsace, as well as in Hungary and along the Danube. Due to that since the 17th century the diet of palmipedes is based on maize, foie gras farms have gradually spread in areas where the cultivation of this cereal has developed.
Goose foie gras, the elite foie gras
Originally all foie gras came from the gander. However, ganders are not docile animals. Because they still retain some of their wild instinct and proud character, they do not tolerate confinement in cages well, let alone forced feeding. When the production of Foie Gras became industrialised, the ganders successfully opposed it. For this reason, in 1960 the INRA created in France, through genetic mixing of different species, a high performance hybrid duck called a “moulard“, designed for the industrial production of foie gras. A dumb and sterile duck, submissive to captivity in cages and forced feeding. Currently only 10% of the foie gras produced in the world comes from ganders The remaining 90% comes from the mass rearing of moulard ducks,
Gander foie gras (the male of the grey goose) and goose foie gras (the female) are equally delicious. After a long fattening cycle, they produce a pink liver, much appreciated for its fine and silky texture, with a smooth taste that remains on the palate for a long time. On the other hand, duck foie gras, obtained only from males after a rapid fattening cycle (more profitable), is deep yellow in colour, has a harsher taste than goose foie gras, lasts much shorter in the mouth and has a less firm texture (it melts more often when cooked).