French food tech start-up Gourmey is working on a lab-grown foie gras that could allow restaurants to continue to serve the highly-prized delicacy in an ethical way.
The controversial duck liver product is a divisive delicacy, with strong opposition to it existing in many countries. The objection relates to the inhuman method of gavage or force-feeding the birds by forcing a metal funnel down their throats to mimic the effect of seasonal gorging. Foie gras production has been banned in countries across Europe since 2016, with only five continuing the practise - Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary and Spain.
Now the French food tech start-up Gourmey, which focuses on cell-cultured poultry, has raised $10 million to develop their technology. The company has been working on cultivated foie gras, or - as they call it - slaughter-free foie gras, made with duck stem-cells, a complex task, but one they feel is achievable. By all accounts, the product looks and tastes like the genuine article. With one unnamed Michelin-star chef allegedly claiming he couldn't tell the difference.
The process involves extracting stem cells from a duck egg and feeding it nutrients to cultivate the product.
"In the egg you have stem cells and they have the capacity to divide and multiply indefinitely, as long as they have a good environment," co-founder and CEO Nicolas Morin-Forest told Sifted.
"We isolate them from the egg and give them a controlled environment that replicates the egg's environment."
Once fed fed the same nutrients a duck would be given the cells multiply as they do inside an egg.
"Then you adjust the nutrients to trigger the cell type that you want. So if you want liver cells, or muscle cells, you adjust the inputs and the cells react to that. We then harvest muscle cells, fat cells, or liver cells and craft our products," Morin-Forest added.
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Despite the ethical questions around the production of foie gras, the ingredient remains popular among diners and chefs alike. An ethical alternative would undoubtedly prove a boon to fans of the delicacy, especially in France.
Gourmey aims to sell its product at the same price as traditional foie gras, and the company is hoping that chefs, in particular, will take the lead in the uptake of their new lab-grown foie gras and serve it in their restaurants. With Gourmey’s products appearing on many of the top restaurants' menus, it is thought the consumer would then follow, allowing the company to scale up production.
You can sign up to Gourmey’s waitlist to be one of the first to hear about their products and one of the first to try them.