Foie gras without a guilty conscience

Foie gras without a guilty conscience

The term foie gras often has negative connotations. The reason for this is foie gras production, in which the animals suffer great suffering. After top restaurateurs developed recipes with unstuffed liver, Migros is now also offering «Happy Foie». This is an animal-friendly foie gras that is supposed to taste just as good as the original. Patents are used to protect the inventors.

Monday, March 11, 2024

The ancient Romans recognised that migratory birds such as ducks and geese have an enormous appetite and began to fatten them up. Over the course of time, this was «perfected» more and more – until the animals were force-fed in the last few weeks before slaughter. The geese and ducks are fattened until their livers become pathologically fatty and they can barely move or breathe.

The consumption of stuffed goose or duck liver – known as foie gras – is therefore associated with a guilty conscience for many, and the search for alternatives is going in various directions, as the specialist food newspaper delikatessenschweiz.ch has summarised. Many countries have already put a stop to the highly controversial production of foie gras. The production method has also been banned in Switzerland since 1978, but not the import of products with stuffed liver. This repeatedly leads to initiatives and emotional exchanges in the Swiss parliament.

Foie gras lovers need no longer have any scruples: As the «Tages Anzeiger» reported back in 2017, innovative restaurateurs such as top chef and cookbook author Peter Brunner have developed flavourful recipes with unstuffed liver. Even as an apprentice, it bothered him that whole ducks were ordered in the catering trade, the breasts prepared for the guests, the thighs served to the staff – and the rest disposed of. «At the same time, our boss was buying foie gras for a lot of money», he told the «Tages Anzeiger» newspaper, describing his youthful concerns and was probably one of the pioneers of the «nose to tail» movement, which advocates the utilisation of the whole animal. Brunner also had the recipe for his duck liver terrine patented in 1996. In contrast to a trade secret, a patent makes the manufacturing process public and can then be used by anyone for further innovation in return for a license fee paid to the inventor for 20 years. This is how patents promote innovation.


Animal-friendly alternatives find their way into the retail trade

Peter Brunner's recipe found its way into the professional catering trade and was made available to everyone in 2017 in the aforementioned Tages Anzeiger article. Migros recently started offering foie gras that does not involve the animals suffering any torture. The so-called «Happy Foie» thus offers a real alternative to the frowned upon foie gras. In an interview with «Migros Magazin», inventor Tobias Sudhoff explains how he developed the animal-friendly culinary specialty and who he wants to reach with it.

The German spent a whole two years working on the development of sustainable foie gras. «When I started in 2018, I was still head chef at a one-star restaurant near Münster in North Rhine-Westphalia. The guests there expected foie gras on the menu as a matter of course.» It was therefore important to him to offer a variant without animal suffering.

He is more than satisfied with the result. The «Happy Foie» tastes just as good as the conventional product. «Several blind tastings confirm that the flavour of the Happy Foie is on a par. This applies not only to the flavour, but also to the mouthfeel», says Sudhoff. However, this was by no means an easy endeavour. They had to replicate the melting properties of conventional foie gras – «a highly complex process», the chef is quoted as saying in Migros Magazin. The employees had to take enormous care to ensure that the temperature in the cauldron was exactly right. «This is the only way to achieve the unique melting, creaminess and fine, compact texture of foie gras.»


Protecting innovation through patents

One thing is clear: the German has probably struck a nerve with his invention. Sudhoff's innovative foie gras is now set to revolutionize the delicatessen market outside of the catering industry. Consequently, the production of sustainable goose and duck liver is a patent-pending process, according to the product manufacturer's website. The patent harbours a lot of potential. This makes the product a valuable business idea that can be marketed worldwide for the benefit of animal welfare and at the same time protects the inventor and guarantees him income from his invention. Double protection, in other words, which at the same time enables further innovations based on it.

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