How is your European foie gras produced? First stage: 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. Goose foie gras is mainly produced in Hungary, where it has been awarded the “Hungaricum” distinction. In this article, we discuss the first stage of the production process: the reception and rearing of the 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 times in artisanal family farms, with the greatest respect for animal welfare.
After the ducklings are 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 on a daily basis from the very first 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 please. Depending on the weather conditions, and when the ducklings are sufficiently feathered, they have access to an outdoor run.
In the second part of this series, we will discuss the rearing phase of ducks in the open air.
First Euro Foie Gras face-to-face meeting in a year and a half
Euro Foie Gras’ Board was delighted to meet on 28 October for their first physical meeting in Brussels since the beginning of the pandemic. The Spanish, Hungarian, Belgian and French members sat around the table to discuss several important issues for the sector.
First of all, the Board gave an economic overview of the foie gras sector. Sales are gradually recovering thanks to the reopening of restaurants, the relaunch of events and the resumption of exports. However, the sector has noted a significant increase in production costs.
On another note, Euro Foie Gras representatives welcomed the launch of the European promotion programme and its website “On the road to foie gras”. Famous chefs, such as Leandro Gil and Ketty Fresdena in Spain, or Rozina Wossala in Hungary, ambassadors of local gastronomy, are travelling through their countries to meet foie gras producers. One goal: spread knowledge among Europeans of this delicious dish and its production process.
The issue of marketing standards was again on the table of the Board, as these are expected to be revised in the course of next year with the publication of the legislative proposal by the European Commission. Euro Foie Gras responded to the European Commission’s public consultation this summer by reiterating its position: to keep the definition of raw foie gras and add a definition for processed foie gras. This is the only way to ensure the quality of foie gras and to effectively protect the consumer.
Lastly, the Federation continued its joint reflection on animal welfare in the context of the implementation of the European “Farm to Fork” Strategy. Providing quality living conditions to their animals at all stages of the rearing process is a daily concern for all fat palmipeds farmers. Therefore, Euro Foie Gras will continue to be a force of proposal on animal welfare by contributing to the discussions on the revision of the European legislation.
Declaración conjunta – La votación en el Parlamento Europeo sobre la estrategia «De la granja a la mesa»
En el día de ayer, el Parlamento Europeo votó su informe de propia iniciativa sobre la estrategia «De la granja a la mesa». Los actores de la cadena alimentaria tomamos nota de la señal enviada mediante esta votación, pero lamentamos el clima en el que se realizó. Hasta ahora, se ha hablado de todo menos sobre los medios y soluciones reales a los múltiples ángulos muertos que esta estrategia podría crear.
Los actores de la cadena alimentaria estamos de acuerdo con los objetivos principales de la estrategia «De la granja a la mesa», ya que somos conscientes de que es necesario realizar cambios y estamos totalmente comprometidos a cumplir nuestro rol en la transición hacia un
sistema alimentario más sostenible. De hecho, ya estamos trabajando en esa dirección. No obstante, a día de hoy no contamos ni con nuevas herramientas ni con una hoja de ruta clara. El plazo establecido, el 2030, es inminente y los cambios no se asimilan de la noche a la mañana.
Esperamos ahora que la Comisión nos brinde propuestas concretas, en particular, sobre esos puntos flacos que ya se han identificado en los debates, tales como los efectos de la fuga de carbono, la autonomía estratégica europea y los precios al consumo. Con estas cuestiones en
mente, le damos la bienvenida a la clara señal que el Parlamento ha enviado a la Comisión: hay que preparar una evaluación exhaustiva donde se midan las repercusiones de esta estrategia. Los hoja informativa presentada por la Comisión a principios de esta semana podrían1 ser un gran punto de partida para dicha evaluación.
Agriculture and Progress: Plataforma europea para la producción agrícola sostenible
Agri-food Chain Coalition: Iniciativa conjunta de la cadena agroalimentaria europea
AnimalHealthEurope: Industria europea de medicamentos veterinarios
AVEC: Asociación Europea de transformadores avícolas y comercio avícola
CEFS: Asociación europea de fabricantes de azúcar
CEJA: Consejo europeo de jóvenes agricultores
CEMA: Industria europea de maquinaria agrícola
CEPM: Confederación europea de productores de maíz
CEVI: Confederación europea de viticultores independientes
CIBE: Confederación internacional de cultivadores de remolacha europeos
Clitravi: Centro de enlace de la industria cárnica de la Unión Europea
COCERAL: Asociación europea de comercio de cereales, semillas oleaginosas, legumbres, aceite de oliva, aceites y grasas, alimentación animal y agroalimentación
Copa-Cogeca: Agricultores europeos y Cooperativas agrarias europeas
CropLife Europe: Industria europea de la protección de cultivos
EBB: Consejo europeo del biodiésel
EDA: Asociación europea del sector lácteo
EFFAB: Foro europeo de ganaderos de reproducción
ELO: Organización europea de propietarios de tierras
European Livestock Voice: Plataforma europea de la cadena alimentaria ganadera (con el apoyo
del proyecto Carni Sostenibili)
Euro Foie Gras: Federación europea del foie gras
Euroseeds: Sector europeo de las semillas
ePURE: Industria europea del etanol renovable
Fediol: Asociación europea de industrias de harinas proteicas y aceites vegetales
FEFAC: Federación europea de fabricantes de piensos
Fertilizers Europe: Productores europeos de fertilizantes
IBC: Confederación internacional de carniceros
UECBV: Comerciantes europeos de productos ganaderos y cárnicos
Joint declaration – Farm to Fork: it is time to listen to what the data says!
Food chain actors all agree with the main principles set out in the Farm to Fork strategy and are fully aware that constant and substantial improvement must be made to ensure a more sustainable approach for our food systems. Nevertheless, several recently published studies on the Farm to Fork strategy indicate that the current targets, if implemented as proposed, will come at a significant cost for EU farmers and the viability of the entire European agribusiness culture.
The time for political messages around the Farm to Fork strategy has passed. It is now time to analyse the data currently available. In recent months, several key reports and studies have tried to assess and measure the impacts of the targets set by the European Commission when presenting the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies in May 2020.
Studies conducted by the USDA, the HFFA Research, the Joint Research Centre of the EU (JRC), Kiel University as well as Wageningen University and Research (WUR) all conclude that there are several significant impacts, trade-offs and blind spots that urgently need to be considered by policymakers in the EU (and beyond).
- The JRC study predicts that the expected decrease of between 40 and 60% of GHG emissions from European agriculture stemming from the implementation of Farm to Fork targets will lead to outsourcing European agricultural production, including its emissions to third countries.
- The Kiel University study projects that Europe could become a net food importer, in direct contradiction with the open strategic autonomy promoted by the European Commission during the COVID crisis.
- The USDA study concludes that the targets set out in the Farm to Fork strategy could lead to food insecurity for 22 million people.
Why is Europe not looking at the data?
Each of these studies, using different methodologies, with different focal points and limitations all complement each other. They all reach the same conclusions. EU agricultural production will decrease – in some areas and for some products quite drastically. According to the latest WUR study showing an average production decline for the cumulative impact of targets of between 10 – 20% with up to 30% drop for certain crops.
As regards livestock production, the study from the University of Kiel, points to a 20% reduction in EU beef production and a 17% reduction for pork production on average. A further WUR policy paper (soon to be published) confirms an overall decrease in beef, pig and dairy production, leading not only to a price increase for EU consumers but also shows questionable effects on livestock farmers’ incomes.
The data clearly points to impacts on trade, on farmers’ incomes and ultimately on consumer prices. Changing the food system under these conditions will be more difficult, and imposing consumption taxes, as proposed by the European Parliament, could make it socially unjust.
All the actors in the agri-food chain are aware of the environmental and climate challenges we are facing today. We are all committed to playing our part in the fight to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. European agricultural production is among the most resource and environmentally friendly in the world. Nevertheless, European producers believe that, with innovation and further support at the forefront of EU agricultural policy, farmers will continue to produce in an even more sustainable manner. We acknowledge the expectations of society and policymakers within the realm of food production. But “non-data based political targets” will have deleterious effects on European agriculture. We must build solution-oriented policies, based on the data we have to hand, with innovation as their cornerstone.
In order to start talking about solutions, we need to have a common understanding of the challenges we face in pursuing our Farm to Fork objectives. This common understanding should be based on a comprehensive and cumulative impact assessment conducted by the European Commission. The most recent Wageningen study, with its different scenarios, is clearly showing that assessing the effects of Farm to Fork targets in isolation, as the Commission seems to envision doing from now on, will only give a partial picture of the cumulative reality faced by farmers and agri-food players on the ground.
We are as eager as the Commission to end this debate on the necessity of carrying out a cumulative impact assessment. We call for a comprehensive assessment because we want to understand where problems are likely to arise, so that we can discuss the potential solutions.
Europe’s food production model, spearheaded by the Common Agricultural Policy, has been one of the biggest successes of the European Union. We do not understand the apparent attempt to countermand our progress and disregard our successes at a time when our trading partners are already talking about filling the production gaps left vacant by Europe.
In addition, if EU production decreases, as is clearly expected by all the researchers who have assessed the impact of the Commission’s current proposals, then EU imports of agricultural raw materials and ingredients are bound to increase significantly, thus making the EU dependent on imports to feed its population – thus creating several political and food safety risks for European consumers.
It is time the European Commission conducts a holistic impact assessment. The Farm to Fork deadline is looming. Eight years for the agricultural sector is not that long. We urgently need to see concrete proposals and a broader discussion around the choices we are making – but it needs to be based on better data.
 Summary of results Scenario 4: red. pesticide and nutrient use, 10% set aside
Agriculture and Progress – European Platform for Sustainable Agricultural Production
Agri-food Chain Coalition – European agri-food chain joint initiative
AnimalhealthEurope – European Animal Medicines Industry AVEC – European Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade CEFS – European Association of Sugar Manufacturers CEJA – European Council of Young Farmers CEMA – European Agricultural Machinery Industry CEPM – European Confederation of Maize Production CEVI – European Confederation of Independent Winegrowers
CIBE – International Confederation of European Beet Growers Clitravi – Liaison Centre for the Meat Processing Industry in the European Union COCERAL – European association of trade in cereals, oilseeds, pulses, olive oil, oils and fats, animal feed and agrosupply
Copa-Cogeca – European Farmers and Agri-Cooperatives
CropLife Europe- Europe’s Crop Protection Industry
EBB – European Biodiesel Board
EFFAB – European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders ELO – European Landowners’ Organization European Livestock Voice – European Platform of the Livestock Food Chain
Euro Foie Gras – European Federation of foie gras
Euroseeds – European Seed Sector
ePURE – European Renewable Ethanol Industry UECBV – European Livestock and Meat Trades Union
FEFAC – European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation
FEFANA – European Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures
Fertilizers Europe – European Fertilizer Producers
IBC – International Butchers’ Confederation
On the road to foie gras: Discovering European foie gras
Euro Foie Gras is very pleased to announce the launch of its European promotion campaign “On the road to foie gras”. This two-year campaign aims to inform Europeans about the foie gras production process and the different ways to enjoy this European gastronomic product.
Influencers from different European foie gras producing countries will meet farmers in their exploitations. The talented Chefs Matthias Marc and Pierre Chomet, both Top Chef 2021 participants, will travel around France to help us discover this quality dish, so dear to French people. In Spain, Michelin Chef Leandro Gil and TV presenter Ketty Fresneda will take us on a journey to discover the secrets of foie gras in the heart of the producing regions: Castilla y León, Navarre, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Aragon. In Hungary, the famous Chef Wossala Rozina will travel the country to meet duck and goose foie gras producers. And finally, you will have the opportunity to follow Julien Lapraille, former Top Chef 2014 contestant, and Tom Vermeiren, Chef at the Wilford Restaurant, in several farms in Wallonia.
Find out more about their adventures on this website: https://ontheroadtofoiegras.com/! You will also have access to a lot of information about this high-quality food, our producers, our commitment to animal welfare and many recipes that will delight your palate.
This campaign is financed with the support of the European Union via its promotion programme.
Discover foie gras production during Open Farm Days in Wallonia
Looking for an educational and fun activity to do with your family? On 11 and 12 September, 33 Walloon farms will open their doors. Among them, the Louis Legrand farm, a family farm raising ducks for foie gras and growing traditional crops (cereals, beetroot and corn).
The owners, located in Templeuve (Tournai, Belgium), will give you the opportunity to visit their duck farm, access the production installations and even attend a demonstration of assisted feeding. You will then be able to taste the delicious dishes produced from fat palmipeds: smoked magret, duck legs confit with orange, cassoulet with duck confit, the foie gras discovery plate, etc. Fun activities will also delight children and parents alike: horse-drawn carriage ride, wooden games and bouncy castle.
The ducks of the Louis Legrand farm are raised in the open air, a fundamental characteristic of duck foie gras production, and their feed is entirely natural (cereals and corn). The farmers attach great importance to maintaining their know-how and the artisanal quality of their products, thus guaranteeing their freshness and authenticity.
Don’t hesitate to go and meet them this weekend!
More information on the Open Farm Days (in French): https://www.jfo-maquinzaine.be/
Picture: © JFO
Revision of the EU animal welfare legislation: Euro Foie Gras recalls its commitment to high standards
Euro Foie Gras contributed to the European Commission public consultation on the inception impact assessment related to the revision of the EU animal welfare legislation. The Federation recalls that foie gras is produced in full compliance with EU animal welfare standards. Furthermore, the sector follows the latest scientific data and on-farm testing to ensure a constant improvement of the breeding conditions.
Foie gras is a European traditional gastronomic and high-quality product respecting high standards of animal welfare.
The European foie gras sector responds to societal expectations: the production is extensive, outdoor, and very often family based. With 90% of the life of the animal spent outdoors, open air is a fundamental characteristic of the breeding of foie gras palmipeds.
Fat palmipeds remain in outdoor areas during 10 to 15 weeks, depending on the species, until the fattening phase. It is only during that phase that they live in collective housing and only for a limited period of time (between 9 and 12 days for ducks and 12 to 15 days for geese). This housing system meets all the requirements of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation of 22 June 1999 since it allows the animals to stand with a normal posture, flap their wings, turn around without difficulty and perform normal social interactions. The shift from the use of individual cages for the production of foie gras to collective housing, required by the above-mentioned Recommendation, represented a significant investment of more than 120 million euros for the European breeders.
Moreover, Euro Foie Gras underlined its commitment to a process of constant improvement in breeding practices by using the most up-to-date scientific data and on-farm testing. In this respect, the Federation recalled that the 1998 SCAHAW report on the welfare aspects of ducks and geese in foie gras production had a limited methodology and highly questionable recommendations. Therefore, after more than twenty years, this report cannot be cited as a reference on the welfare of fat palmipeds.
The Federation also stressed that any additional requirements on the housing systems would need to be scientifically assessed taking into account the specificities of each species and the different production stage. It is also crucial to define what a cage is, as a starting point. Furthermore, if additional EU standards are imposed on European farmers, they will have to be financially supported and a sufficient transition period will have to be adopted. Euro Foie Gras alerted that if stricter animal welfare rules were adopted while continuing to allow imports that do not meet the same standards to enter, this would inevitably harm the competitiveness of the European livestock sector which would face unfair competition from third countries. Therefore, concrete guarantees in line with WTO rules are needed to ensure a level playing field for European livestock farmers.
Maintaining the definition of raw foie gras in the marketing standards is essential
The European Foie Gras Federation contributed to the European Commission’s public consultation on the revision of marketing standards for agricultural products.
In its contribution, Euro Foie Gras reaffirms the need of maintaining the definition of raw foie gras in the European marketing standards. Indeed, the minimum weight of livers – 300g for ducks and 400g for geese – ensures the authenticity and quality of the product. Below these weights, the liver cells are too small and therefore insufficiently fattened. It is thus essential to maintain this weight requirement, in particular to guarantee the accuracy of the information given to consumers so that they can make informed choices and to protect an authentic production method and a prestigious product against any fraudulent practices.
Furthermore, the Federation deplores that there is still no definition of processed foie gras. This product represents 80% of foie gras sales. Without a clear text, consumers risk buying a product that does not have the same intrinsic characteristics as foie gras and that does not meet their expectations in terms of quality and taste. Euro Foie Gras therefore calls for the integration of the definition of processed foie gras in the future legislative proposal on marketing standards.
This proposal from the European Commission is expected in 2022 after the completion of the impact assessment.
Picture: © CIFOG/ADOCOM RP
EU Promotion Policy: EFG strongly opposed to an exclusion of meat products
Euro Foie Gras responded to the European Commission’s consultation on the review of the European promotion policy for farm and food products. The Federation was keen to stress the essential role of agricultural products (including meat products) in a balanced diet, and therefore the importance of maintaining them in the promotion policy.
It is essential to bear in mind that the promotion policy already contributes to food sustainability through the high sustainability standards of European products, in particular with regards to environmental sustainability and animal welfare.
Furthermore, the assessment of the sustainability of a product must take into account all its different aspects (the social, environmental and economic pillars). For example, fat palmipeds breeders guarantee optimal farming conditions that ensure a good balance between the different components of sustainability (animal welfare, animal health, environment, farmer’s welfare, etc.).
Moreover, we would like to stress that the healthiness of a food product depends on the way it is consumed and incorporated into an overall diet. In this sense, all agricultural products, consumed in adequate quantities, play a key role in a balanced diet.
For all these reasons, we strongly insist that all agricultural products should be included and their promotion should go hand in hand with the promotion of a healthy, diversified and balanced diet.
We are therefore strongly opposed to any reduction in support for or exclusion of meat products. Meat products have been and continue to be an important food source providing a wide range of valuable nutrients that can be easily absorbed by our bodies. Some nutrients found in these products are not always readily available from plant-based foods.
Finally, if the Commission stopped promoting certain EU products such as meat products, consumers would switch to similar products from third countries with considerably lower standards. This would indirectly promote less sustainable production.
Picture: © CIFOG/ADOCOM RP / Ph Asset
Commission Communication on the ECI “End the Cage Age”: many questions remain
Euro Foie Gras takes note of the publication of the European Commission communication on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “End the Cage Age”. This communication, calling for the phasing out of cages for farm animals under certain conditions, raises many questions within the Federation.
First of all, the European Commission is making a strong political commitment without even defining the central term: the cage. How can such a decision be applied in the future without understanding exactly what it refers to?
Secondly, this communication was published without any prior impact assessment. This will be carried out a posteriori, and therefore after the political commitment. An upstream evaluation would have been desirable in order to better understand the impact of such a decision, which will have major consequences for many agricultural sectors.
Furthermore, the Commission announced support measures that will be granted to farmers to help them through the transition. Euro Foie Gras considers that these measures are not sufficient in view of the future repercussions for the livestock sector. Moreover, not all sectors such as poultry farming are eligible to benefit from CAP aids. In addition, some of them risk not being supported equally by their national authorities (via the 2nd pillar of the CAP for example), which would create an imbalance on the European internal market.
Finally, Euro Foie Gras has noted the Commission’s ideas in order to avoid unfair competition from third countries and to promote our European products. However, the Federation deplores the fact that, in the face of a strong political commitment, no guarantees are given to breeders regarding cheaper imported products. The obvious risk of abolishing cages is an increase in the cost of products to support the necessary adaptations. The majority of consumers could then turn to cheaper products imported from third countries, which do not follow the same animal welfare standards.
The Federation recalls that fat palmipeds are reared for 90% of their lives in outdoor areas with access to open-air runs. The animals spend only 10 days in collective housing during the last phase of rearing: assisted feeding. 120 million euros were invested to replace individual housing by collective housing systems that comply with the recommendations of the Council of Europe of 22 June 1999 (possibility for the palmipeds to flap their wings, to make normal preening movements, to turn around without difficulty…).
Euro Foie Gras remains constructive and calls on the European institutions to involve the different agricultural sectors as much as possible, including the foie gras sector, in the discussion on this subject.
Picture: © CIFOG