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Muscovy foie gras — how to and is it worth it?  RSS feed

 
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My wife and purchased 5 Muscovy ducklings for our farm about a month ago, we were told that they were all female and we were planning on raising them for eggs, however we have realized that 2 of them are drakes and we don't want them. We have decided that instead of just eating them, we'd like to treat ourselves and make foie gras, I'm in the process of ordering a gavage for the force feeding, but I would like to know if anyone has had experience with Muscovy foie gras and if it's worth the trouble? I know that the best foie gras comes from geese, but most of it is made from mulard ducks (hybrids of Muscovies and Pekins) these days, and most of the information about how long and how much to force feed them is directed toward these two types. So, how long and how much should we force feed the ducks before their livers are ready to harvest?
 
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Can you get decent foie gras by tempting the duck with ridiculously high energy feeds (possibly drenched in molasses for example) in a very small pen for a 'finishing period'?

The dish intrigues me but I'm not comfortable with force-feeding. (I don't even like the finishing pen lol, but am willing to use one to try it once.)
 
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I find muscovy ducks don't have enough fat to make good liver pate.  The livers tend to be a bit dry. 

My preference is to have them de-slug the garden then eat them as a roast (low and slow - about 275F for 4 hours).  Muscovy ducks get really large quickly on a normal diet. 
 
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I had never heard about this until today. I saw some horrific video and found numerous negative accounts of the practice.

This is cut from Wikipedia. There's lots more. Seems like a horrible practice to me.
.......
Force-feeding procedure
In modern gavage-based foie gras production, force-feeding takes place for between 17 and 30 days before slaughter.[96]

Fear
Geese and ducks show avoidance behaviour (indicating aversion) of the person who feeds them and the feeding procedure.[93][96] Although an EU committee in 1998 reported seeing this aversion, they noted that at the time, there was no "conclusive" scientific evidence on the aversive nature of force-feeding.[93] The AVMA (Animal Welfare Division) when considering foie gras production stated "The relatively new Mulard breed used in foie gras production seems to be more prone than its parent breeds to fear of people".[96]

Injury
An EU committee in 1998[93] reported that there was usually clear evidence of tissue damage in the oesophagus of birds which had been gavage fed, although one 1972 study cited by the report observed no alteration of the oesophageal tissue. More recent scientific studies have shown that the esophagus of birds can be injured or inflamed by gavage feeding.[60][96][97][98]

Stress
After measuring a range of physiological parameters in male Mulard ducks, it was concluded in one study that the acute stress caused by force feeding is similar at the beginning and end of the commercial production of foie gras.[99] A similar study on Muscovy ducks found that gavage feeding was related to an increase in panting behaviour and serum corticosterone levels, indicating increased stress attributable to this feeding method.[100]

Housing and husbandry
In France, at the end of 2015, individual cages were prohibited to improve animal welfare. They will be replaced by cages which house 4 to 5 birds.[61]

Behavioural restriction
During the force-feeding period, the birds are kept in individual cages, with wire or plastic mesh floors, or sometimes in small groups on slatted floors. Individual caging restricts movements and behaviours by preventing the birds from standing erect, turning around, or flapping their wings. Birds cannot carry out other natural waterfowl behaviours, such as bathing and swimming.[60] Furthermore, ducks and geese are social animals and individual cages prevent such interactions.[93]

During the force feeding period, when the birds are not being fed, they are sometimes kept in near darkness; this prevents normal investigatory behaviour and results in poor welfare.[93]

Injury
Lesions can occur on the sternum of the birds due to necrosis of the skin. This is observed more frequently in birds reared in cages rather than on the floor. The prevalence is higher in Mulard ducks (40–70%) compared to under 6% in Muscovy ducks. This is due to the larger pectoralis profundus major and minor muscles in Muscovy ducks compared to Mulards.[93] The relatively new Mulard breed used in foie gras production seems more prone to developing lesions in the area of the sternum when kept in small cages, and to bone breakage during transport and slaughter.[96]

Where ducks are fattened in group pens, it has been suggested that the increased effort required to capture and restrain ducks in pens might cause them to experience more stress during force feeding. Injuries and fatalities during transport and slaughter occur in all types of poultry production, however, fattened ducks are more susceptible to conditions such as heat stress.

Enlarged liver
Foie gras production results in the bird's liver being swollen. In some species of ducks, liver size changes seasonally, increasing by as much as 30 to 50%, with more pronounced changes in females. However, foie gras production enlargens the livers up to 10 times their normal size.[60][96] This impairs liver function due to obstructing blood flow, and expands the abdomen making it difficult for the birds to breathe.[96] Death occurs if the force-feeding is continued.[4][93]

Mortality rates
The mortality rate in force-fed birds varies from 2% to 4%, compared with approximately 0.2% in age-matched, non-force-fed drakes.[60] Mortality rates do not differ between the force-feeding period and the previous rearing phase, with both being approximately 2.5%.[61]

 
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This reminded me of an article I read a few years back about naturally fattening geese for foie gras, without any force-feeding. Here's the article: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/01/487088946/this-spanish-farm-makes-foie-gras-without-force-feeding

According to the article, this method of producing foie gras is actually at least 500 years old. Since geese naturally gorge themselves in the fall to prepare for migration, it's very easy to let them fatten up. Geese are taken to fields full of acrons, seeds and grass and allowed to merrily--and freely--gorge themselves.



It's really a fascinating article, and you can also learn more about their technique on their website: http://www.sousa-labourdette.com. Here's a quote

The Sousa family has always valued goose rearing as a sustainable and low-impact farming practice with a highly sought-after finished product. Their free-range geese are partly domesticated, but are visited annually by their wild cousins, thus renewing the gene pool and maintaining the feeding instincts of the established flock.

When autumn comes round the geese begin to feed intensively, gorging day and night, in preparation for a migration journey. The animals are captured during the night by dazzling them with powerful lights and foie gras is harvested. 



To me, this seems like an ethical way to get foie gras.

And, I found this lovely thread here on permies: https://permies.com/t/39833/critters/muscovies-eat. There's some really fun pictures of muscovies loving acorns. So, perhaps acorns would be a good way to fatten your muscovies. It might work better in autumn, though...
 
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Burra Maluca
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Burra Maluca wrote:



This. This man not only has some epic TED talks about this stuff, but see also his TED talk on fish farming (from here in an awesome thread on videos to introduce permaculture):

Rick LaJambe wrote:While the Foie Gras talk from Dan Barber is fantastic, I believe his other talk on the fish he fell in love with was far superior in that it showed a restoration of a natural ecosystem to produce exceptional food.

This shows a large-scale operation, which is probably more attractive to political types. The best part is that all was necessary was to allow an ecosystem to go back into a natural state!

Dan Barber is also damn funny!



The TED talk videos by Dan Barber are epic, though he goes into FAR more depth in his book, The Third Plate, both about the foie gras system and the fish systems and then so. much. more. I highly recommend the book.


 
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Where did you order the gavage equipment?  I've had no luck on the internet so far.
 
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