About a five-hour car drive southwest of Madrid, a fifth-generation Spanish farmer and an ecologist and migratory bird expert are in business together—the foie gras business. Foie gras is, of course, that wonderful buttery, fatty goose or duck liver that is revered in Europe, especially in France. It’s also banned in at least 20 countries because of the practice of gavage, or force-feeding the birds.
According to NPR, the two gentlemen farmers, Mr. Sousa and Mr. Labourdette, who have become “darlings in the culinary world,” make their product from wild geese who land on the farm once a year “to gorge themselves on acorns and olives before flying south for the winter.”
The duo set out to commercially produce foie gras in a natural, sustainable way. But Sousa says their technique is nothing new: It was used in Spain more than 500 years ago, before the Spanish Inquisition.
“In 1492, Spain expelled the Jewish family that lived on this land, and the church took their property,” Sousa explains. “Three hundred years later, my family bought it from the church, and we revived the old Jewish family’s tradition. They used to raise geese on this land.”
“The natural cycle for the wild goose of Europe is to spend the summer in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, northern Germany or parts of Russia and Ukraine. Then they migrate south to Africa each autumn,” Labourdette explains. “They stop here in Spain on their way, to eat and gain energy for the long flight. But lots of them never leave because they find such a good habitat here.”
Unlike big commercial foie gras farms, where geese are slaughtered every few weeks for their livers, this farm slaughters once a year — usually in October — with the first chill of autumn, on the night of the new moon.