Paris-based Gourmey hopes ethical lab grown foie gras will overcome bans

A start-up company based in Paris called Gourmey - which seeks to produce foie gras in a lab in order to overcome growing bans on the product - has this week raised $10 million in funding from investors, the New York Times reports.

The push to make foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose, in a lab comes amid a push to find a sustainable, ethical alternative to meat raised for slaughter. Most foie gras is made by force-feeding ducks and geese through a tube to engorge their livers up to 10 times their normal sizes. The process can leave ducks too big to walk or breathe, according to animal activists.

In 2019, the New York City Council passed legislation that would ban the sale of foie gras in the city, one of the largest markets in the United States, starting next year, joining California.

Countries including Britain, Finland, Israel and Norway have also banned the production of foie gras, and Britain’s food and safety department said in March that it was exploring further restrictions it could introduce to address welfare concerns surrounding the production of foie gras.

The European Parliament last month called for a ban on force-feeding ducks and geese for foie gras.

With growing opposition to foie gras because of animal cruelty concerns, Nicolas Morin-Forest, Gourmey’s co-founder and chief executive, said that producing the delicacy from cultivated cells was a way to preserve a centuries-old French culinary tradition.

“There is a clear and huge market use for an alternative, essentially, that goes way beyond the vegans and the vegetarians,” said Mr. Morin-Forest, who grew up eating foie gras each year at Christmas dinner and on New Year’s Eve, as is tradition in France. “Plenty of people are not vegan or vegetarian, but are still not comfortable eating foie gras because of the way it’s produced.”

Unlike plant-based meat substitutes cell-cultivated meat is grown from animal cells in a lab.

Gourmey engineers faux meat by taking cells out of a freshly laid duck egg and placing them into a cultivator. The cells are then fed with proteins, amino acids and sugar, similar to the nutrients a duck would get from a diet of oats, corn and grass. The cells are then harvested and transformed into foie gras in a process that uses significantly less land and water than traditional methods.

A big obstacle for cellular agriculture is the texture of the resulting food, particularly when making substantial cuts of meat like steaks. But Mr. Morin-Forest said that, on a technical level, foie gras was well suited to be grown in a lab precisely because of its delicate texture compared with other types of meat.

Image: Par Nikodem Nijaki — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...

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