Euro Foie Gras adopts common animal welfare indicators
After analysing the different good practices in place in the producing countries, Euro Foie Gras members have developed and adopted 18 common indicators of animal welfare.
Covering the rearing and fattening phases, they are indicators of means that allow farmers to adopt the means required to ensure a high level of animal welfare. They are articulated and aligned with the five freedoms, which are the guiding principles for the work of the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). Widely recognised, these five freedoms describe society’s expectations for the conditions animals should experience when they are under human care.
The 18 indicators also serve to ensure that European farmers are properly implementing EU legislation, and in some cases, they even go beyond. Some of them are adapted during the containment period required by EU legislation in the event of a risk of avian influenza.
These indicators include for example:
- the placing of drinking troughs that meet the needs of fat palmipeds to have permanent access to quality water and to be able to wet their heads at a minimum, being eminently aquatic birds;
- daily monitoring of the animals, carried out by the farmer or by competent staff, and up to twice a day during the fattening phase;
- the installation of natural areas (trees, hedges and bushes) and/or artificial ones (tunnels, buildings) that provide shelter from draughts, excess sun or rain, thus avoiding thermic stress;
- the installation of a dedicated area for the isolation of weakened animals with water and feed available at each production unit;
- Access to open air area and maximum animal densities during the rearing and fattening phase.
Euro Foie Gras has always worked and will continue to work so that fat palmipeds are reared in optimal conditions by fully ensuring their well-being while meeting requirements related to sanitary aspects and offering satisfactory working conditions to breeders. This ambitious work which ended with the adoption of the 18 indicators shows once again that the foie gras sector has been engaged, since its creation, in a process of progress and constant improvement of breeding practices based on the most recent scientific data.
European Citizens’ Initiative: Protecting the EU’s rural heritage, food security and supply
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Protecting the EU’s rural heritage, food security and supply” was launched on 2 November. The initiative has the following objectives:
- Valuing cultural heritage,
- Preserving and promoting European agriculture, rural territories and regional heritages,
- Maintaining food security,
- Promoting investment and rising living standards in rural areas.
To oblige the European Commission to respond (positively or negatively), this citizens’ initiative must reach, within one year, 1 million signatures of European citizens from at least 7 Member States.
Euro Foie Gras calls on MEPs, stakeholders and European citizens to support this ECI.
Robust marketing standards for effective consumer protection
On Monday 24 October, Euro Foie Gras held its Board meeting in Brussels. Members from Hungary, Spain, France, Belgium and Bulgaria had the pleasure to meet and exchange on the latest news of the European political agenda.
Euro Foie Gras members discussed the subject of marketing standards for agricultural products, which are currently under review. Euro Foie Gras strongly supports the maintenance of the definition of raw foie gras and calls for the addition of a definition for processed foie gras. “As foie gras is a traditional gastronomic product with a high value, robust marketing standards are essential to ensure the quality of the product and to protect consumers against fraudulent practices” said Christophe Barrailh, President of Euro Foie Gras.
In addition, the Federation adopted a position paper with eighteen common indicators of animal welfare, which demonstrates the constant efforts and commitments of European fat palmiped farmers in this area. The members also welcomed the European Commission’s reminder, in its fitness check of the European legislation on animal welfare, of the legality of foie gras production and the obligation for Member States to maintain its marketing. As highlighted by the Commission in the same document, Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) lays down that the “ customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage” must be respected.
In addition, the latest outbreaks of avian influenza have had a severe impact on the sector, affecting breeding stock in particular. For this reason, members reaffirmed that vaccination remains an essential and complementary measure to the biosecurity measures in place. Nevertheless, the introduction of such a measure in Europe should not harm exports.
Finally, the members reported on the various farm visits organised with European policy makers. “We are delighted that the policy makers took the time to visit our farms, as well as with their positive feedback” added Christophe Barrailh.
Vaccinating against avian influenza: Euro Foie Gras supports the European Commission in this direction and calls for maintaining export possibilities
Euro Foie Gras welcomes the decision of the European Commission to address the issue of vaccination of animals and in particular poultry within the European Union (EU). The Commission is about to adopt a delegated act aiming at defining the conditions of use of veterinary medicines and vaccines, in particular against avian influenza. Euro Foie Gras contributed to the public consultation in view of the adoption of this delegated act in order to highlight the issues and concerns of the sector.
The European poultry sector, including fat palmipeds (ducks and geese), has suffered from recurrent outbreaks of avian influenza over the past five years, with serious economic repercussions across the EU. In response to successive outbreaks, fat palmiped breeders have invested heavily and put in place strict biosecurity and surveillance rules to prevent and control avian influenza and to limit the risk of future spread, such as sheltering animals or reducing stocking densities.
However, despite the many efforts made by farmers in terms of biosecurity, avian influenza has not been eradicated. For this reason, Euro Foie Gras considers that vaccination represents an indispensable complementary tool for the prevention and control of this animal disease, in addition to the biosecurity measures already implemented. Furthermore, the protection of breeding flocks through vaccination is becoming a survival issue for this outstanding sector.
However, it is essential that this new tool does not threaten export opportunities for foie gras to third countries. Therefore, Euro Foie Gras has asked the European Commission to quickly discuss with the EU’s trading partners to ensure that the vaccine approach is accepted and does not hinder trade. Finally, it should be ensured that all trading partners respect the rules of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) which do not foresee trade restrictions when a State decides to vaccinate.
Getting to know a sector before taking a stand: MEPs visit a foie gras farm
On Tuesday, Valérie Van Wyzenberghe opened the doors of her family foie gras farm to three Swedish, Hungarian and Belgian Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
Willing to have first-hand experience in order to make informed decisions on the sector, they discovered the different stages of the virtuous foie gras production: from the arrival of the one-day-old ducklings to the ducks raised in the tree-filled open-air runs, then fattened before being slaughtered on the farm. The processing and sales are also done on site, offering delicious local quality products to Belgian consumers.
Euro Foie Gras would like to thank the MEPs for their curiosity and interest in learning about the know-how and best practices of European foie gras producers. We were delighted to offer them an immersive experience. There is no better way of discovering the production!
Convinced that farm visits help to raise awareness about their profession, foie gras producers will continue on the path of transparency and dialogue.
Discovery, pedagogy and rurality: immersion in Wallonia’s foie gras farms
Curious about where your food comes from? Want to dive into the daily reality of farming? Or do you feel like showing your support to farmers and agricultural producers?
Find what you are looking for during the Walloon Open Farm Days of 25 and 26 June!
Nearly 60 farms from all over the Walloon region will welcome you in their premises and give you the opportunity to experience farming life first hand!
The Louis Legrand farm located in Templeuve, near the city of Tournai, is specialised in duck breeding, notably for the production of foie gras, and in the cultivation of traditional crops such as maize and wheat.
Also specialised in ducks for the production of foie gras, the Sauvenière Farm is located in the village of Hemptinne-lez-Florennes, in the province of Hainaut. There, you will find various other home-made and local products derived from duck farming such as cassoulet or foie gras stuffed quails.
Your visit at these farms will give the whole family the chance to discover, enjoy and relax around experienced and passionate farm professionals.
Discover the history of the farms, the breeding of ducks and the processing facilities. You’ll also be able to witness the practice of assisted feeding.
Enjoy tasting experience and catering with products directly from the farm (foie gras, confit, cassoulet, local drinks …).
And finally, relax around family friendly activities such as animal feeding, carriage rides, wooden games and even a bouncy castle!
The Sauvenière and Louis Legrand farms are well known for their attention to open air and great animal welfare, fundamental characteristics of foie gras production.
You will find out that fat palmipeds breeders wear many different hats: farmer, artisan, processor, seller, etc.
Do not hesitate to enter one of these farms this weekend!
Vaccination: an essential tool in the fight against avian influenza, while continuing to export
Following the success of the Circle of Foie Gras Friends, representatives of the sector met for their General Assembly. They were delighted by the presence of many MEPs at the Circle, from both producing and consuming countries, demonstrating the strong political support for the product and the breeders.
The members of Euro Foie Gras also discussed the avian influenza epidemic that has been raging in Europe for several months and which is affecting the entire poultry sector. “Vaccinate and export” is the sector’s position on the subject. Vaccination will not be a panacea but an essential tool that will complement the biosecurity and surveillance measures that are and will remain the pillars of the fight against avian influenza.
In addition, the Federation is already successfully completing the first year of its European promotion campaign. Training in culinary schools and points of sale, videos of farmers to showcase their production, publication of recipes, etc. Many actions have been carried out to make foie gras better known to citizens, salespeople and apprentice cooks in producing countries.
The members also mentioned the progress made by the animal welfare sub-group, gathering representatives of the sector, which is developing common animal welfare indicators. These demonstrate the proactivity of the sector in effectively following all EU animal welfare rules, and in some cases even going beyond them.
Working together within Euro Foie Gras is crucial in order to exchange on the challenges to be faced, to bring collective answers and to unite its voice to promote an extensive, essentially outdoor and family-based sector that contributes to the diversity of European gastronomy.
Euro Foie Gras awards the Golden Palm to MEP Jérémy Decerle
MEPs, members of the permanent and regional representations to the EU, and other friends of foie gras gathered on 11 May at the Representation of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region in Brussels to celebrate this delicacy and the women and men who produce it. It was also an opportunity to thank MEP Jérémy Decerle for his commitment to foie gras production by awarding him the Federation’s Golden Palm.
Christophe Barrailh, President of the Federation, opened the Cocktail of the Circle of Foie Gras Friends by thanking MEPs for their support during the vote on Jérémy Decerle’s implementation report on on-farm animal welfare. “Extensive, family-based, mainly open air and respectful of animal welfare” are the foie gras production specificities that were recognised in this report on 15 February 2022.
The President of Euro Foie Gras then spoke about the avian influenza outbreak that is severely affecting a large number of European countries and the entire poultry sector. “The economic and social consequences for farmers and for our animals are terrible. Euro Foie Gras is convinced that in addition to biosecurity and surveillance measures, which are and will remain the pillars of the fight against avian flu, vaccination is now an essential complementary tool for an efficient fight against this disease,” he stressed.
The Federation also expressed its gratitude to MEP Jérémy Decerle, who has succeeded in highlighting the efforts made by breeders on their farms, while promoting the foie gras production sector. Christophe Barrailh praised “a man of conviction and action, who very quickly became a key MEP in the Agriculture Committee“. In recognition of his work, which played an essential role in the European Parliament’s positive vote in February 2022, the Federation awarded him the Golden Palm and also inducted him as a member of the Circle of Foie Gras Friends.
Jérémy Decerle thanked the Federation and reacted: “I am firmly convinced that farmers have a decisive role to play in Europe and must be defended.” He praised the fat palmipeds rearing method, essentially based on family farms, which offers a significant added value. Euro Foie Gras was also pleased to induct six new MEPs from different countries (Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and France) and also thanked the MEPs already members of the Circle.
The Foie Gras Friends had not been able to meet for more than two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The evening was rich in exchanges on the challenges and opportunities of the sector, while tasting delicious appetizers based on fat palmipeds.
How is your European foie gras produced? Second stage: duck rearing in the open air
To learn more about foie gras, we have launched a series on its production in Europe, from the arrival of the ducklings in the farms to the final product. This series will only consider duck foie gras, which makes up the majority of foie gras produced in Europe. However, it is important to note the existence of goose foie gras, which accounts for 7% of the total foie gras production in Europe. Goose foie gras is mainly produced in Hungary, where it has been awarded the “Hungaricum” distinction. In this article, we address the second stage of the production process: the outdoor rearing of ducks.
In November, we described the first stage of rearing ducklings, which first grow up in a heated building so that they can feather themselves enough to go out in the open air.
Later on, the animal is strong enough to access the outdoor course. The open air is a fundamental characteristic of foie gras farming. In total, the animals spend 90% of their lives outdoors. The ducks can move freely among their peers in a natural and healthy environment. They eat 75% cereal feed in the form of pellets or meal.
Valérie van Wynsberghe, owner of the Ferme de la Sauvenière, a Belgian family and artisanal farm, explained to CanalZ* that the duck welfare is a priority for the breeders: “If we want to have quality products, the animal must be raised in good conditions, in a pleasant and healthy environment. This is what we do as much as possible. We have planted fruit trees so that they have shade in the summer, the meadows are reseeded every spring so that they are on grassy paths and not in the mud…“.
In order to prepare the animals for the next phase, assisted feeding, a transition period is used to accustom the animal to feeding by meals, thus developing its fattening capacity. The duck, now about 10 weeks old (depending on the species), will be moved to an indoor collective housing for the fattening phase. This third part of our series will be developed later this year.
Picture: © CIFOG
Non-EU product imports must meet EU standards
On 16 February 2022, the European Commission opened a public consultation on the application of EU health and environmental standards to imports of agricultural and food products. Here is Euro Foie Gras’ opinion on the matter:
The European Union (EU) is the world’s largest producer of foie gras, accounting for 90% of global production. A definition of raw products (foie gras, magret) is included in the regulation 543/20081 on marketing standards for poultrymeat, which should even be supplemented by a standard on processed products to protect consumers from fraudulent practices. However, competition from other countries such as China, where standards are not as high as in the EU, may increase in the coming decades.
Thus, we believe it is essential to ensure that imports of products from third countries comply with European standards. Otherwise, it would undermine the competitiveness of the European farming sector, which would then face unfair competition from non-EU countries. We therefore call for the same conditions to be imposed on imports.
Foie gras is a gastronomic traditional product. Its production is closely linked to the gastronomic national identity of the five European producing countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary and France – and contributes to the European culinary influence around the world.
European foie gras production complies with all regulatory requirements in terms of animal health and welfare, including the European directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, and even goes beyond these regulatory requirements. Indeed, in 2011, the five European foie gras producing countries proactively adopted the European Charter on breeding of waterfowl for foie gras. This Charter sets out the sector’s commitments based on the 12 principles of the European Commission’s “Welfare Quality Project”. The sector is also developing common animal welfare indicators.