Foie gras: Has the world moved on from the days of animal cruelty?
Foie gras is always a sensitive subject when it comes to animal cruelty. The subject forces difficult decision making for retail and foodservice businesses. Consumption of foie gras in the UK market has fallen over the past 20 years, so retaining an offering for those consumers who do still want to purchase this product may be difficult to justify.
We want to tell you about a company who may have found a solution. Introducing Foie Royale, the luxurious, ethical alternative to foie gras.
We sat down with Mike Logut, Managing Director of Foie Royale, to learn more…
What is traditional Foie Gras?
Foie gras is a specialty food product made from the liver of a duck or goose. The fattened liver is produced by using a traditional technique known as ‘Gavage'. This is the force feeding of ducks and geese to fatten their livers to produce foie gras. Gavage-based foie gras production is controversial, due mainly to the animal welfare concerns around force-feeding, intensive housing and husbandry, and enlarging the liver to 10 times its normal volume. A number of countries and jurisdictions have laws against force-feeding, as well as the production, import, or sale of foie gras.
Who are Foie Royale?
Foie Royale was conceived to develop an ethical and sustainable alternative to traditional foie gras. The aim was to use a naturally raised healthy duck or goose liver, from birds that had been bred for their meat, not force fed or allowed to feed to encourage an engorged liver. The natural livers are used to produce a product that tasted as good as foie gras, with the same melting behaviour, but created using modern technology after the bird's life. Following seven years of R&D working with the Institute of Food Technology (DIL) in Quakenbrück, Germany, led by their specialist fat scientist Nino Terjung, we perfected the process, breaking the cells down, and fusing them in the same composition as foie gras. The final stage of the production is the cooking, this ensures that Foie Royale has an excellent shelf life of 12 months from production.
The ducks and geese are raised ethically on farms in Germany. Allowed to roam outside from an early age, each bird has a minimum of 25m² throughout their life and are kept in barns at night for their security. They are not subjected to wing clipping or beak clipping and are fed naturally. We strive to have happy and content birds. When the birds are slaughtered for their meat, their small healthy liver, dark red in appearance is trimmed to remove the bile and sent with the fat to DIL for the Foie Royale process to begin.
What products are you bringing to Speciality & Fine Food Fair this year?
Our original Classic series, our best seller, will always feature. In addition to that, we are bringing some brand new products to introduce to visitors at the Fair:
- Entier Foie Royale – developed to create not only the flavour of foie gras, but also the natural texture in the mouth. This feel is achieved by using different batches, layered to deliver the rich depth of flavour and a more natural looking product.
- Foie Royale with truffle – an unbeatable combination as a celebration-ready delight for special occasions. The addition of black truffle escalates the flavour to another level.
- Vegan version – A healthy vegan Royale product, a perfect melt in the mouth savoury canape for a plant-based celebration.
What has the feedback been from your customers?
The product already has a huge number of consumers and is in demand throughout Waitrose stores across the UK, and in all Fortnum & Mason stores. Both Waitrose and Fortnum & Mason also sell online and this Christmas, Booths Supermarket will be listing Foie Royale for the first time.
People are now more concerned about not only the food flavour, but also sustainability and an ethical production process. Most of our customers stopped eating foie gras because they were not comfortable with the force-feeding of the birds. They are delighted that there is an ethical and sustainable alternative in the market with similar flavour and texture to foie gras. The demand from chefs, restaurants, hotels, retailers and consumers keeps increasing and looks set to continue growing.
You're working with Chef Dan Moon to create delicious Foie Royale recipes, what does he think of the product?
Dan Moon is our ambassador chef in the UK. He is always the first chef to try our new products, and he is constantly coming up with new creative dish ideas.
He says: “What chefs need to understand is the versatility of Foie Royale. You can pan-sear it, you can monte sauces with it. Like any pastry chef knows with different couvertures of chocolate, sometimes you may have to tweak just a little to get the result that you want. But the product is super to work with, the performance is great and the feedback from diners is so rewarding.
“As chefs, while we love to stick with what we know, diners' habits are evolving, they are changing. There has been so much press around traditional foie gras that, rightly so, there are few guests who are happy to see it on today's menus. We have to listen to our diners, in part, and take a look at the world around us. Is there a better way? Can the same desired result be achieved ethically? The answer is yes, and the answer is Foie Royale.”
Consumers are very passionate about sustainability and conscious consumption, how does this play into how you've created and marketed Foie Royale?
Consumers are now becoming more and more concerned about sustainability and ethics, not only about the product itself, but also the production process. This is the reason that we developed an ethical and sustainable alternative to foie gras, with a similar flavour and texture.
The liver and fat of the birds are by-products of their meat production. In addition, there is no waste, de-veining or soaking required for Foie Royale, so there is no waste in its use by chefs.
Foie Royale is becoming increasingly recognised in the market and more widely used by chefs, replacing the traditional foie gras on their menus. Foie Royale is versatile, not only as an ingredient, but also in the different ways that it can be presented in dishes. We are now sampling Foie Royale with truffles – an unforgettable combination of two very distinctive and luxurious flavours. Even more exciting, a vegan version is under development with the first tasting trials under way. The feedback is incredibly positive. Please stay tuned!
Foie Royale has been outperforming traditional foie gras for a while now, consumers are becoming more and more aware of an ethical alternative, as are chefs. Morals have changed and future generations just simply won't accept a product if there is an ethical and viable alternative.
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