Foie gras: against all odds

  • Reading time: 7 minutes

Foie gras, a staple of the festival, has not yet said the last word. Despite 2023 being a particularly difficult year for producers, this delicacy will be present on tables in December. Furthermore, the sector wants to be reassuring and prepares for the future.

Foie gras millefeuille. ©Cifog

Every year, the same observation: the French consider foie gras to be an essential product for a successful celebration. 84% of them see it as a way to share moments of celebration and pleasure with their loved ones. Furthermore, 3 out of 4 French people classify it as one of the obligatory items for end-of-year celebrations, ahead of smoked salmon (67%) and log of Christmas (61%). “ We know that the wait doesn’t change, foie gras has a true safe haven », immediately guarantees Marie-Pierre Pé, director of the French Foie Gras Interprofession (Cifog). In his opinion, foie gras therefore maintains the sense of celebration. More than 9 out of 10 people rate it as “ traditional » (94%), « festive » (93%), « top of the line » (92%), « what pleases » (92%) and “ to share », according to data from Cifog.

Despite inflation and successive crises, consumers want treatment, it is important to them.

However, the sector is going through complicated times. “ We are somewhat in the same market context as at the end of 2022, knowing that we started the year without stock », highlights Marie-Pierre Pé. The availability of foie gras has decreased by about a third due to bird flu. “ We started 2022 in a very critical situation, we were out of stock in some references », agrees Fabien Chevalier, general director of Maison Lafitte. Even worse this year, bird flu resurfaced in early May, after winter episodes, in the Gers department and eastern Landes. “ It was a bit of the usual disaster scenario at the start of the year, then we were hit with a late-onset flu, as well as isolated cases in July », Specifies Fabien Chevalier. The loss was also estimated at one million ducks in the month of May alone. But if availability fell, in value, the decline was still limited to -2%, compared to the 2021 end-of-year holidays. Sales even increased by 10.2% in value, with a decline limited to 6.3 % by volume.

A glimmer of hope

Production in French territory gains some colors », Mentions Marie-Pierre Pé. She guarantees that professionals in the sector are “ trusting “even if they remain” cautious », and place the year 2023 under the sign of reconstruction. Indeed, as the campaign to vaccinate tens of millions of ducks against bird flu begins, hopes are rising again. To break the devastating spiral of bird flu, which has been affecting France for several years, the country has made vaccination mandatory on farms with more than 250 ducks (excluding breeding ducks) since 1 October. The entire industry welcomes this measure, which represents a promise of recovery in production. “ We hope this allows us to regain serenity in our explorations, because we almost disappeared », explains the director of Cifog.

On October 1, France made vaccination mandatory on farms with more than 250 ducks (excluding breeding ducks). ©Anne-Claire Héraud / Yam

Despite everything, this situation has a negative side, especially for exports, which currently represent 20% of the sector’s flow. Although France is the first major exporter to vaccinate in the world, some countries oppose the import of poultry products if vaccination is mandatory. This is particularly the case in Japan, the main market for French foie gras outside Europe (6-7% of exports), which has already announced that it intends to take such a measure. “ It is a profitable market, which we will have to do without for several months and years », laments Fabien Chevalier de Lafitte, also vice-president of Cifog.

An iconic product

But foie gras resists, against all odds. More than ever, the French want to find it in their dishes and on restaurant menus. “ Despite inflation and successive crises, consumers want to treat themselves, it is important for them, they continue to want to consume foie gras. », notes Audrey Estival, marketing director at Rougié. Furthermore, a large majority of the population (93%) agrees that foie gras is part of French gastronomic heritage, 89% also believe that it is a ” made in France » to be supported and 88% of traditional know-how to be preserved, according to Cifog. They place very high levels of trust in foie gras, whether in terms of taste qualities (90%), food safety (89%), traceability (89%) or production method (83%).

iWorked Foie Gras
Foie gras prepared by a chef. ©Anne-Claire Héraud / Yam

Therefore, in a context of product scarcity, this may require some adjustments from professionals to meet demand. “ Above all, we do not ask for foie gras to be removed from menus, on the contrary, guarantees Marie-Pierre Pé. The idea is to adapt the way of preparing it. » She advises, for example, reducing the quantities and remembers that sometimes it is served as a side dish and not as a main dish. “ This could also be an opportunity to put duck products back on the menu, such as duck breast or confit for example. She adds. They are beloved products that do not cause division, symbols of pleasure and terroir. »

In turn, Fabien Chevalier de Lafitte believes that professionals who want to put it on the map will be able to do so. “ Don’t be prejudiced, approach your supplier, talk to him and see the availability of products “, he says. However, he invites you to anticipate orders carefully. “ For terrines, don’t wait too long and take care of them at least a month in advance », he slips. He also recommends frozen ribs, which are available in quantity, have a long shelf life (BBD) and do not require thawing. “ This is the best way to cook them, avoiding adding flour as was done before “, ensures. The canned format also appears to be making its way to restaurants. “ To be sure to put foie gras on the menu, a certain number of establishments, bistros or gastronomy, have reserved preserves for us, this is also interesting for them ” he adds.

Above all, we do not ask for foie gras to be removed from the menus, on the contrary. The idea is to adapt the way of preparing it.

Furthermore, if, given the general context, the moment was not necessarily one of innovation for Maison Lafitte, some new proposals saw the light of day. In particular a recipe for foie gras, artichokes and verbena, directly inspired by the famous Lyon restaurant, La Mère Brazier**. It is a small can (130g), which allows you to combine foie gras with a vegetable. The other innovation, launched last year to celebrate Lafitte’s 60th anniversary, is a semi-cooked recipe (180g), signed by chef Michel Guérard, a partner of the House for many years. With the Lafitte teams, he offers L’instant d’Eugénie, in homage to the name of his restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie, three stars in the Michelin Guide since 1977. We have never launched such a sophisticated recipeslides Fabien Chevalier. It is cooked in fig leaves, lightly smoked, seasoned with armagnac from the chef’s property. »

Lafitte highlights a recipe by chef Michel Guérard, foie gras cooked in fig leaves, smoked and seasoned with Armagnac. ©Lafitte

Lafitte highlights an artichoke and verbena foie gras. ©Lafitte

To make sure they have foie gras, some restaurateurs turn to canned food. ©Anne-Claire Héraud / Yam

Rougié offers restaurateurs a whole foie gras with Sauternes and Madagascar pepper. © Rougie

Rougié offers restaurateurs his range of duck terrines. © Rougie

For her part, Audrey Estival de Rougié believes that it is also possible to combine foie gras with vegetables, to reduce the quantities a little, but still offering original recipes. “ This allows customers to move away from their habits a little, have different associations “, She explains. Furthermore, the cost of the portion can be more affordable for restaurants, even if, despite the context and inflation, prices have only increased slightly, according to professionals in the sector. In terms of innovation, the brand has returned to focus on its pillars.” This year, our essentials are highlighted, such as going back to basics with terrines and raw foie gras, above all we want to be able to respond to all requests », comments Audrey Estival.

The cooperative offers a recipe for whole duck foie gras with Sauternes and Madagascar pepper, a product ready to be consumed hot or cold. Charcuterie terrines are also featured at Rougié, with a range of three recipes called “ Bistro side », prepared with fat ducks. “ It’s a way of putting duck on the menu, for example as an appetizer. », comments the marketing director. Furthermore, to complete and diversify its offer, the brand has been presenting yet another noble product of French gastronomy since the beginning of the year, wild scallops. They are kept alive until selection, then manually enucleated, before being frozen by IQF. Another starter or dish idea for end of year celebrations.

Leave a Comment