How to identify the quality of foie gras?

Foie gras: a rich history...

In the beginning, foie gras was produced by farmers and cooks, with the knowledge and expertise being passed from generation to generation. Until 1860, foie gras tended to be eaten where it was made. However, with the discovery of canning food as a means of preservation, its flavour became known across the country. 

The recipe for foie gras is simple: foie gras, salt and pepper.  However, good foie gras is dependent on the cook’s skill and the quality of the ingredients. Our ancestors knew how important it was to allow their cattle to graze peacefully in their pastures and to provide cereals for their geese and ducks. 
Foie gras became ever more popular and instead of being eaten only locally, on farms or in the surrounding restaurants, an ever-increasing number of top restaurants began to want to offer it to their own clientele. 

Slowly, from the 1960s onwards, the product began to be produced commercially. Some small factories grew up but much larger operators attracted by the potential profits they could make, looked to using or adapting their existing processes to manufacture foie gras. Through reducing production costs, and thus lowering prices, they were able to drive profit even higher. Why feed the ducks on maize when flour would do?  Why let them roam free when they could be caged and fed antibiotics like battery hens? 

For the large manufacturers to succeed, they needed to use the hypermarkets as their route to market, with their demands for ever-lower prices and standardisation of products. Worse, they began to use clever marketing to fool customers into believing they were buying a quality, traditionally made product: expensive looking labels, brand names conjuring images of the highest quality products etc.  


This is how certificates were created which guarantee the quality of foie gras.

1990: introduction of PGI (Protected Geographic Indication) for Foie Gras

Throughout the 1980s, local foie gras producers saw their only means of growing their business was to compromise on quality. They came together and drew up a quality charter which resulted in the introduction of PGI which is the equivalent of the Appellation given to wines. The introduction of production standards has undoubtedly resulted in better quality products. 

Clearly, some of the industrial producers have, of course, obtained the right to use this mark of quality and arguably comply with the required standards. There is nothing to prevent a factory employing 500 people from producing foie gras and using the PGI, even if this goes against the spirit of PGI.

Label rouge, premium foie gras

Alongside this PGI, another group of producers from the Landes region decided to introduce the Label RougeLabel Rouge defines extremely exacting standards and consequently can be used by very few producers.  It does, however, reflect the high quality of some very fine foies gras. Conversely, « Made in France » on its own means little except that the foie gras was processed in France. 

"Origin France" or "Made in France": a name which means nothing, except that the foie gras is packaged in France.

French hypermarkets are displaying more and more foie gras which is clearly labelled Made in France. These products vary enormously in quality from the best (from a small producer in the South-West of France who is producing an extremely fine foie gras), to the mediocre (the animals are reared in France, often around the Loire and in the West where their diet is not rich in cereals) to the poor (produced using livers imported from Central Europe which are transported in refrigerated lorries to be processed on an industrial scale in French factories).

It is rare that you will find products from small producers on the hypermarket shelves and equally rare to see a product stamped manufactured using imported livers.

Oie du Périgord: Quality of foie gras from geese raised in France, more precisely in Périgord

La Filière Périgord has decided to identify its products under the name “Oie du Périgord”, while many companies are dedicated to importing foie gras from other cheaper countries but not respecting the strict regulations to produce high quality foie gras. This brand is part of the protected designations of origin (AOC - Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) which guarantee the quality and authenticity of the foie gras produced on this specific terroir.

There are many companies dedicated to producing excellent foie gras but there are also many others who want to sell cheap products but of uncertified origin, with less pleasant flavors and textures that do not identify not a traditional foie gras. This is why you should always look for these labels.

On the other hand, having these labels does not mean that all foie gras have the same taste or the same texture, nor even that the quality is exactly the same, since each producer brings their unique touch to it. In the same way that you can find a good wine from Médoc or Sauternes, you will also find different foie gras. Try different brands that carry these labels and you will then identify which is your favorite foie gras.

At Foie Gras Gourmet, we offer you a rigorous selection of products from the South-West of France, where quality, respect in the breeding and production of ducks and geese, as well as the commitment of each producer, combine for you offer products of exceptional quality. Each of the products we offer is unique and different so you can choose the foie gras that best suits your preferences and tastes.

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