Foie Gras

Ottawa Magazine - - CITY BITES -

If you’ve eaten at some of the restau­rants high­lighted in this is­sue’s food fea­ture, then you’ve prob­a­bly read the name Mari­posa Farm on the menu. Just east of Ot­tawa, in Plan­ta­genet, the farm is fa­mous for its Bar­bary ducks, but it also has a flock of 100 Emb­den geese, which, at the end of their lives, be­come — in part — foie gras.

What you may not have re­al­ized is that Mari­posa is one of the few busi­nesses in the world to pro­duce foie gras nat­u­rally (ac­tu­ally the cor­rect term for their ver­sion is blond goose liver). Mari­posa’s Ian Walker and Suzanne Lavoie do not re­strict the move­ment of their geese, nor are they force-fed (also known as gav­age) by us­ing a pipe — both of which are com­mon prac­tices among most foie gras pro­duc­ers, which has led them to be tar­geted by an­i­mal rights protests. In­stead, the geese roam freely, eat­ing as much corn as they want, which the an­i­mals do in the wild, in­creas­ing their caloric in­take as mi­gra­tion time ap­proaches. The pro­cliv­ity of the geese for glut­tony also en­larges their liv­ers and makes them fatty — per­fect for foie gras.

Although this nat­u­ral method doesn’t yield the quan­tity of foie gras most farms pro­duce, it is “a thou­sand times eas­ier,” Walker says. It’s ac­tu­ally more work to re­strict the move­ment of geese and force­feed them rather than let­ting them eat at their own pace, ac­cord­ing to Walker. Plus, it ap­peases some an­i­mal rights ac­tivists — though Walker says al­leged an­i­mal cru­elty does not fac­tor into Mari­posa’s de­ci­sion to raise geese nat­u­rally.

With the new trade deal be­tween Canada and the EU now in ef­fect and Eu­rope po­si­tioned as the world’s largest pro­ducer of foie gras, could an in­un­da­tion of Euro­pean foie gras threaten Mari­posa’s busi­ness? Walker doesn’t seem all that con­cerned. “How will it af­fect me? I don’t really know. We’re a small dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany and we’re a small farm. Our client base is mainly peo­ple who think sim­i­lar to us ... and our mis­sion state­ment has al­ways been lo­cal.” —Matt Har­ri­son

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