UK Government Looks to Replace Foie Gras With Vegan Alternatives

Food and Agriculture
PETA animal rights supporters demonstrate against foie gras production.

PETA animal rights supporters demonstrate against foie gras production, where grain is forced with a tube into the stomachs of geese and ducks to enlarge their livers. Recchia / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

In March 2021, Members of Parliament for the UK came together to call for a ban on trading foie gras. Producing it is already illegal in the country because it is considered animal cruelty, but government officials are working on further legislation to stop restaurants from importing this food. Now, the UK government is also calling on vegan chefs to create “faux gras” using plant-based ingredients, like nuts and mushrooms, to achieve the rich, buttery taste of the traditional dish.

Foie gras is considered a luxury, but how it is made is far from glitz and glam. The dish is made from duck and geese livers. To achieve such a unique, fatty texture, the animals are force-fed and overfed. The birds are often pinned or caged in place, with a feed tube in their throats, in order to make the liver swell up rapidly.

“It’s a travesty that these birds are confined in filthy cages and painfully force-fed until their livers become diseased. Their brief existence makes for a real-life horror film,” Abigail Penny, executive director of Animal Equality UK, told The Guardian earlier this year. “Foie gras is the definition of animal cruelty and people are clearly united in their hatred for this wicked product.”

The livers are highly sought after by high-end restaurants, but the UK government hopes to find a plant-based alternative and fully ban production and importation of foie gras in the country. Officials emailed restaurants known to serve vegan foie gras. The hope is to use these chefs’ advice on making cruelty-free versions of this dish to prepare more chefs to make the switch.

“I understand your restaurant serves an alternative to foie gras. We would appreciate the chance to arrange a virtual meeting with the chef or someone else from the team to discuss a few questions in this area,” the email reads, as reported by The Guardian. “These would be questions about your views on foie gras and the challenges and opportunities associated with ‘ethical’ alternatives.”

French chef Alexis Gauthier, who formerly served foie gras in his restaurants but then switched to a faux version after learning more about the meat and dairy industries, is one of many chefs consulted by the government. His recipe for “faux gras,” which he serves at Gauthier Soho, a fine-dining restaurant, mimics the taste and texture of conventional foie gras so much that people travel from all over the country to taste it.

His secret? Plenty of savory flavors, like mushrooms, walnuts, lentils, and herbs, plus cognac — including an extra splash “to give it that je ne sais quoi.”

Government officials are continuing meetings in order to offer alternative options to restaurants in the event of a full ban.

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