The Euro Foie Gras Board meeting, held in Brussels on the 23rd of April 2024, had a special flavour just before the European elections. Between discussions on current legislative files and reflections on the future of the sector and the Federation, exchanges were rich and fruitful.

Euro Foie Gras’ members started by welcoming the first steps of the EU promotion programme « Teach Further », which will run for 3 years in France, Spain and Belgium. Under the slogan ‘Let’s share Europe’s gastronomic heritage,’ this programme aims to promote and raise awareness about foie gras and its production methods among Millenials.

Despite parliamentary recess until the European elections in June, the sector carried on its work on the subject of transport. The position paper, adopted by the Board members, was presented to several Permanent Representations of Member States. During these meetings, the sector denounced the serious shortcomings and inadequacies of the regulation proposed by the European Commission on the welfare of animals during transport. ‘There is no doubt that this legislative proposal will have very negative social, environmental and economic consequences for our sector,” denounced Christophe Barrailh, President of Euro Foie Gras. The Federation reaffirmed its willingness to discuss this extremely important issue with the future Members of the European Parliament.

This will undoubtedly be part of the strategic action plan that the sector will be adopting over the course of the year. Aware of its strengths and the challenges it faces, the members were able to use their discussion to lay the foundations for this ambitious plan. A date has been set for the Euro Foie Gras General Assembly in Paris mid-June.

Following the publication of its legislative proposal on the protection of animals during transport last December, the European Commission launched a public consultation. The aim was to gather feedback on this proposal in order to feed into the legislative debate between the European Parliament and the Council. Euro Foie Gras contributed with its key messages to this consultation.

Euro Foie Gras recalls that since its creation in 2008, the Federation has been committed to an approach of progress and constant improvement in farming, slaughter, and transportation practices, based on the latest scientific data. However, the Federation is concerned about the negative consequences that the legislative proposal on animal transport, as it stands, will have on the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of the fat palmipeds sector (ducks and geese).

The absence of a sector-specific impact assessment is a major concern for the Federation. Indeed, any legislative development must be supported by a robust impact assessment, developed in consultation with professionals in the sector. Unfortunately, the current proposal imposes new obligations without such prior analysis. Furthermore, many of the provisions are unsuitable for the fat palmipeds sector for technical, environmental, social or health reasons, and are inconsistent with the objectives of the proposal.

Regarding transport duration, the Federation believes that the loading and unloading time should not be included in the maximum transport duration, as this measure could compromise animal welfare by encouraging faster loading/unloading operations and is incompatible with geographical realities. In addition, Euro Foie Gras considers that it is unrealistic to require veterinarian supervision for every loading and unloading of all species, given the current shortage of professionals and the financial impact it would entail.

The current stocking densities for transporting ducks and geese are adapted to their morphology and behavior, thus minimising the risks of injuries during transport caused by the movement of the vehicle. Any increase in the space allowances would increase these risks (broken wings/legs, scratches, etc.) and have negative economic, social, environmental, and road safety consequences. Furthermore, Euro Foie Gras stresses that animals being transported must be kept fasted. This is necessary for health and hygiene reasons.

Regarding digitalisation and new indicators, Euro Foie Gras warns against the practical challenges and additional administrative burden it entails. Uneven internet coverage in rural areas and the associated costs of collecting and recording additional data should not be underestimated.

Regarding the transition periods, we consider that they should only be established at the end of the legislative process, once the consequences of the decisions taken have been analysed. At this stage, it is not possible to envisage a transition to the new proposed requirements.

Are you an agency interested in taking part to the evaluation of a European promotion programme?

CIFOG and Euro Foie Gras organizations are proposing a European communication programme running from 2024 to 2026 across France, Spain and Belgium. It aims to educate the Millennials in order to go beyond the preconceptions towards the Foie Gras product and production. 

Applications must be submitted by the 15th February 2024.

On Monday, October 2, 2023, under the auspices of the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, an unprecedented vaccination campaign against avian influenza was launched. While similar initiatives had taken place outside the European Union (EU), it was a first for an EU member state, especially with such a stringent surveillance plan as proposed by France. 

As part of the campaign, no less than 64 million French ducks (raised for meat and foie gras production) will undergo the vaccination process between October 2023 and the summer of 2024. It is worth noting that France is the world’s leading producer of foie gras and the first European genetic reservoir. 

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) now affect all continents with increased frequency and less clear seasonality. Faced with this growing recurrence affecting the entire European poultry sector, this vaccination plan complements existing biosecurity measures in France. Mandatory for waterfowl farms with 250 animals or more, preventive vaccination aims to protect animals and provide more certainty and peace of mind to farmers who have felt helpless against an epizootic that is often elusive despite reinforced biosecurity measures. Vaccination will notably help avoid preventive culling in regulated areas because vaccinated animals are no longer virus shedders and thus fade from the transmission chain. 

This vaccination became possible thanks to the adoption in February 2023 of the European delegated regulation on avian influenza. Euro Foie Gras had advocated for the adoption of this text, responding notably to the public consultation. In its response, the sector had emphasized that “vaccination represents an essential complementary tool for the prevention and control of HPAI, in addition to biosecurity measures that remain and will remain the cornerstone of the fight against this epizootic.” 

Finally, exports constitute a real challenge. Some countries, like Japan, have already announced the closure of their market to vaccinated products. However, let’s hope that ongoing discussions will reassure trading partners. 

After years during which the sector has been severely affected by avian influenza, Marie-Pierre Pé, Director of the French Foie Gras Interbranch Organisation (Cifog), considers that “this vaccination plan represents a glimmer of hope for {the} professionals.” 

Euro Foie Gras held its Executive Board meeting on October 24th in a positive and constructive atmosphere. 

Members welcomed the remarks made by the President of the European Commission in her State of the Union address on September 13th before the European Parliament. The tribute paid to European farmers who produce healthy food for 450 million citizens across Europe and ensure food security in the European Union was well received. Given the increasing challenges that the agricultural sector must face, it is essential that farmers are more heard and fully supported by the European Union. This is why Euro Foie Gras expressed its willingness to participate in the strategic dialogue on the future of European agriculture. 

After several avian influenza outbreaks that severely affected the poultry sector in recent years, the European sanitary situation is now considered stable. Furthermore, the French  Foie Gras Interbranch Association (Cifog)  praised the successful implementation of the vaccination plan in France, the first European producer and genetic reservoir. Although there is much hope placed in vaccination, it was unanimously emphasized that it is an additional and complementary tool to biosecurity measures, which remain the cornerstone of the fight against avian influenza. 

Euro Foie Gras is also closely following the process of revising marketing standards. Members reiterated their desire to see the delegated act related to poultry meat maintaining the definition of raw foie gras adopted. This is crucial for preserving and promoting European craftsmanship, which enables the production of this exceptional dish, and for providing consumers with accurate information. 

2024 will be an election year. The European foie gras sector approaches these upcoming European elections with ambition and clarity. There is a collective will to take the time to assess what we have achieved over the past five years and to engage in a joint reflection on the objectives we want to reach, especially in terms of promoting our production,” concluded Christophe Barrailh, President of Euro Foie Gras. 

How is your European foie gras produced? Second stage: duck rearing in the open air

In the previous article, 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 outdoor runs.

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 life 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 Belgian family and artisanal farm de la Sauvenière, explained to CanalZ* that the duck welfare is a priority for the breeders: “If we want to have quality products, animals 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 in the next article.

* (from 6’30)

First step: Reception and rearing of ducklings

To learn more about foie gras, we are launching 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. This quality dish is mainly produced in Hungary, where it has been awarded the “Hungaricum” distinction. In this article, we present you the first step of the production process: the reception and rearing of ducklings.

The foie gras production requires a long and meticulous work before it reaches our plates. This work is carried out by passionate breeders, who pass on this tradition from generation to generation. Raising ducks for foie gras production is a process that lasts between 10 and 15 weeks depending on the species. The animals are raised most of the time in artisanal family farms, with the greatest respect for animal welfare.

After the ducklings were born in hatcheries, they arrive at the farm when they are one day old. They are housed in a building heated to 30 degrees to encourage their development and give them time to feather before going outside. The breeders monitor the animals daily, especially during their first few days.

During this phase, 75% of their diet is cereal, in the form of crumbs and then pellets. Water is available whenever they want, with devices that adapt to the size of the animals according to their growth (mini drinks, then pipets, etc.).

The animals can move around among the other ducklings as they wish. Depending on the weather conditions, and when the ducklings are sufficiently feathered, they have access to an outdoor run. Next article: rearing phase of ducks in the open air. To be continued…

Since 2016, the European Commission has implemented a program aimed at promoting agricultural products from the European Union (EU). The objective is to contribute to the development and recognition of these products within the Union, as well as in high-growth potential external markets. In total, the Commission has allocated over €185.9 million to the selected projects in 2023.

In 2020, the French Foie Gras Interbranch Organisation (CIFOG) and Euro Foie Gras won the project call with their initiative titled TEACH: “Sharing the European Gastronomic Heritage.” Over the period of 2021-2023, CIFOG and Euro Foie Gras have received European funds to raise awareness about foie gras across four producing countries: France, Belgium, Spain, and Hungary, thereby promoting its entire culture, symbols, and elegance.

A significant part of this initiative unfolded on social media to communicate towards younger generations about foie gras and its environment. By investing in and targeting the practices of these younger generations through the creation of a series of short videos, we were able to disseminate our educational approach and highlight all the values and positive impacts that foie gras brings to the regional economy. Furthermore, iconic preparations were shared by ambassador chefs in the four producing countries, such as the Hungarian Rozina Wossala, and the Belgians Tom Vermeiren and Julien Lapraille. Their actions were crucial in educating and raising awareness among the younger generations.

Additionally, numerous influencers were engaged to place foie gras at the heart of culinary preparations.

Beyond social media, two important events, Madrid Fusion (January 24, 2023) and the Gault et Millau 2022 encounter showcased foie gras through effective communication and gastronomic valorisation. Prominent personalities with established reputations promoted the product, including Ketty Fresneda, a renowned ambassador chef in Spain.

The launch of the “On the roads to Foie Gras website, available in six languages, was a major success. The anticipated website visits were exceeded and doubled, accumulating over 400,000 visits in two years! The benefits were manifold, including the exposure of recipes created by the ambassador chefs from the producing countries, pages dedicated to education that explain the production process of this delicacy and its specificities, as well as the inclusion of various culinary challenges.

Finally, numerous actions were implemented to engage with the younger generations on the ground by visiting culinary and agronomy schools. Through these encounters, foie gras was presented, from its creation to its consumption encompassing the symbols it embodies, to the next generation that will elevate it on plates or in farms. These were moments of knowledge and transmission of passion to the successors of the foie gras sector. This educational and awareness-building ambition were also extended to supermarkets, where department managers were trained to effectively answer young consumers’ questions.

This campaign, with its multi-modal influence approach, has been a true success for the European foie gras sector, effectively raising awareness about the product, its image, and the environment in which it operates.

Discover the series of videos of different producer countries:

With the summer sun, Euro Foie Gras’ members gathered on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Brussels for the General Assembly. Christophe Barrailh, President of Euro Foie Gras, stated, “There are numerous European challenges for our sector: the revision of European marketing standards, the future legislative proposals on animal welfare, and the implementation of vaccination against avian influenza. In all these important issues for the future of our sector of excellence, the sector remains proactive, constructive, and determined.

With the resurgence of avian influenza outbreaks affecting the poultry sector in several European countries at an unprecedented time of the year, Euro Foie Gras called for the rapid implementation of vaccination. While emphasizing that biosecurity and surveillance measures remain and will remain the cornerstone of the fight against this epizootic, there is great hope that this additional tool will help effectively curb this scourge in the long term.

Furthermore, the European foie gras sector strongly reaffirmed the importance of maintaining the definition of raw foie gras with minimum weights of 300 grams for ducks and 400 grams for geese in the future delegated regulation on European marketing standards for poultry. All stakeholders in the sector are committed to offering European consumers and restaurateurs a quality product that matches the exceptional delicacy that foie gras represents, and thus protecting them against any misleading denomination. Only the maintenance of an ambitious and robust definition of raw foie gras will ensure this objective.

Regarding animal welfare, Euro Foie Gras is resolutely focused on the future. While denouncing a partial and biased scientific opinion from EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) as regards the welfare of ducks, geese, and quails, the profession has acknowledged the need for further research to address the current lack of scientific data on several aspects. The sector reaffirmed the importance of finding balanced and sustainable solutions that meet multiple objectives: the well-being of farmers, the welfare of animals, sanitary requirements, the environment, and economic sustainability.

All these topics will undoubtedly be at the heart of the federation’s next Board meeting in October. The appointment is set!

In its new position paper on killing methods, Euro Foie Gras is in favor of maintaining water bath stunning for fat palmipeds, at least for slaughterhouses whose slaughter frequency is less than 8,000 poultry/hour. EFSA’s 2019 scientific opinion on the slaughter of poultry indicates that below 8,000 birds/hour on a chain, operators have time to identify if some fat palmipeds are not properly stunned and thus to apply the appropriate corrective measures. 

The European foie gras sector also emphasizes that its slaughterhouses comply with animal welfare standards. Getting quality products requires slaughtering properly fat palmipeds in full respect of their welfare and the current water bath stunning system works well if the equipment used is correctly adjusted. In addition, Euro Foie Gras insists on the fact that the veterinary services regularly check fat palmipeds slaughterhouses and each of them has an animal protection officer who ensures that no animal is consciously bled. Furthermore over the last years, the use of a system for recording water bath stunning parameters has allowed to control the correct setting of the system as well as precise monitoring. 

Finally, it has been proven that being diving animals in natural conditions, fat palmipeds have a special anatomical capacity which, unlike other poultry, enables them to remain apneic for several minutes in the presence of high concentrations of CO2. This makes water bath stunning the most effective solution, since gas stunning does not cause the loss of consciousness of all the animals of the same batch within a certain period. 

With this new position paper, Euro Foie Gras reaffirms its constructive spirit a few months before the publication, by the European Commission, of the legislative proposals on animal welfare.

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