Can This Guy's Goose Lay a Golden Egg?

One farmer aims to get around foie gras bans - and corner the market - with "naturally fatty" birds.

By Kara Newman, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Gourmet diners in search of the rich, buttery delicacy known as foie gras are having an increasingly tough time tracking it down. Since August, Chicago restaurants have not been allowed to serve the fatted goose liver, which is normally produced by force-feeding the birds. California is committed to outlawing the practice by 2012. Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are considering similar bans. That could take a huge bite out of the estimated $17.5 million U.S. foie gras market.

But one entrepreneur is experimenting with a substitute that could beat the restrictions and fatten up his bottom line. Jim Schiltz, a goose farmer in Sisseton, S.D., used to just sell birds for the holidays until he found that older geese's livers tend to be fattier. This fall Schiltz will set aside 10,000 of his 250,000 geese to age and gorge themselves naturally.

"Some choose to eat more than others," Schiltz says. His planned yield is about a pound of liver per bird, roughly half that of regular foie gras.

Several grades of liver (depending on the birds' appetites) will be sold for an as-yet-undetermined price. Pending USDA approval on labeling, the product may be mass-marketed in 2007. Will the substitute satisfy gourmets, or is it strictly for the birds?


Will it work? Send us your comments.

The Experts Sound Off

Jeffrey Trujillo, Executive chef, Dark Horse Catering

It's a product that could change the whole foie gras business. I've tasted it, and it's not the same as $30-a-pound Hudson Valley or French foie gras - it's not fatty enough. But it's still flavorful, rich, and pointed in the right direction. When Schiltz slaughters again in the fall, I hope I'll get another sample.

Clark Wolf, Restaurant consultant

Like every other status symbol, foie gras is hard to get, labor-intensive, and expensive. A foie gras substitute would not have the same status. And the restaurant industry is incredibly good at adapting. It will find other things to play with that have the same earthy, sexy, primal quality, like truffles or oysters.

Anonymous Waiter DB Bistro Moderne (home of the foie gras burger)

If it tastes like regular foie gras, yes, it should work. People will feel less guilty about it. But they have made foie gras in France for centuries. If it was possible to do this without the atrocity before, don't you think someone would have done it already? Top of page

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