SHARE
COPY LINK

FOOD & DRINK

Lab-grown ‘foie gras’ cannot use product name, says French food producers group

The quintessential French delicacy of foie gras cannot be called as such if it is grown in a lab, an association said on Monday, after a start-up launched a high-profile bid to grow the food from duck cells.

Lab-grown 'foie gras' cannot use product name, says French food producers group
Illustration photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Gourmey, a Paris-based venture, has raised €8 million from European and US investors this month to perfect its recipe for making fattened duck liver in a lab.

Its bid has come amid growing international concern over the methods used to make the delicacy. California has outlawed foie gras sales for years and New York plans to do so next year.

But the CIFOG association, which groups together players in France’s foie gras industry, countered that the venture would have no right to call their product foie gras.

“The label ‘foie gras’ is strictly overseen by precise regulations, both at the French and European level”, it said.

This name is “authorised only to define a liver resulting from a duck, or a goose, fattened by force-feeding,” it emphasised.

“It is therefore forbidden to use it for a product that does not result from this process,” the statement concluded.

Livers for foie gras are obtained by force-feeding ducks with a tube stuck down their throats, a practice denounced by critics as unnecessarily cruel and distressing for the animals.

As well as the US restrictions, Britain prohibits foie gras production and is weighing a ban on sales, while European Parliament lawmakers proposed last month to prohibit the forced feeding of ducks or geese, another source of foie gras.

Housed in a university research lab, Gourmey has spent the past two years developing their process for faux livers able to pass muster with chefs and food fans.

With its latest funding round, Gourmey will move to a 1,000 square metre facility in central Paris aimed at proving to investors the viability of large-scale production.

But CIFOG said: “Our conviction is that the vast majority of the French do not want to consume artificial products, synthetic chemicals resulting from cellular manipulations carried out in laboratories – an ersatz foie gras.”

Member comments

  1. It’s way past time for this animal cruelty to end. I can’t wait for the day when eating an animal or animal product is passé, over and done.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

SHOW COMMENTS