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Chinese Foie Gras, Made Far From Prying Western Eyes

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A few years ago, a study out of Newcastle University in England found that cows that were given names produce more milk. One of the academics in charge of the study was quoted by CNN saying: “Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention.”

The net effect of this attention: an extra five hundred pints of milk a year.

Interestingly enough, a similar principle can be applied to foie gras production. Back in 2007, Eduardo Sousa won the prize for best foie gras at the Paris International Food Salon with his impossible sounding free-range foie gras. Apparently, happy birds can be convinced to fatten up their own livers. (Here’s a great This American Life episode on Sousa and one American’s attempt to duplicate his process.)

Of course, most foie gras is still made by the considerably more brutal process of gavage. As a result, countries around the world have halted or slowed production of the delicacy and California will ban its sale and production starting this July.

But, people still want foie gras. So production has recently shifted east to China, out of sight for many in the West.

According to Worldcrunch, the world’s biggest foie gras farm will soon be built in China’s Jiangxi Province. Creek Projects, an American company, has invested in the farm.

The project plans to raise around two million geese and eight million ducks a year. At this point, China produces about one thousand tons of foie gras annually, twice as much as it did in 2006 but still significantly less than world leader France’s 20,000 tons.

Production in China will inevitably increase once the farm is finished. Still, it seems a little bit sordid to outsource a process to the East that many find immoral in the West.

Then again, there’s still a market for foie gras. And besides, as Sarah Palin asked in her memoir, "If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat?"
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