“Hola Bonita! Hola Hola!” This is how foie gras farmer, Eduardo Sousa, greets his geese.
“It’s very important that you talk to them so they recognize your voice,” he explains to the Perennial Plate camera crew. Sousa has been recognized in the media by chef Daniel Barber at the Ted Talk Taste3 Conference, and has recently been visited by Perennial Plate, the online weekly documentary series that illuminates sustainable agriculture and socially responsible eating.
Foie gras, fatty duck liver, gets its bad reputation from the industrial feeding process whereby ducks or geese get metal feeding tubes shoved down their throats many times a day.
Feeding usually makes for disturbing video footage, but when Perennial Plate covers the world’s most-honored foie gras farmer, it’s charming.
He feeds his geese nuts, acorns, herbs, and dates, all of which grow on his land. Their natural instincts to migrate are still in tact “so that the animal generates the necessary fat.” It’s no wonder they return after every migration season.
Sousa explains, “To produce foie gras, it’s necessary that the animal was born free… an animal raised in the industrial system will lose its instinct to migrate.”
Meanwhile, abusive methods of foie gras farming have been documented recently by Mercy for Animals, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting animal rights. They are powering through threats of recent ag-gag bills by spreading footage gathered by a former employee of Hudson Valley Foie Gras.
The online attacks started last April, when animal rights activists hacked HVFG’s website to stall online transactions coming from California, where foie gras is banned.
HVFG’s approach is completely industrial, requiring nearly 24/7 care, feeding, and supervision of ducks during the harvest; another case where industry threatens animal safety and human labor rights. It’s this industrial process that is simultaneously “award-winning” and abusive.
In contrast, Sousa and his family harvest only once a year, in late fall. For him, foie gras is a sacred celebration to be savored.