Foie gras (or “fatty liver”) is a controversial “delicacy” made from force feeding ducks and geese until their livers have swollen to up to twelve times their normal size.
Excessive Use of Corn Feed
Force feeding ducks and geese requires enormous amounts of grain. During the force feeding period alone, they are fed up to 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of genetically modified corn per day. Over a three to four week period, this amounts to consumption of up to 20 kg (44 lbs) per bird. Multiply that by the approximately 500,000 ducks and geese who are force fed to produce foie gras in the US annually and the result is an industry that requires 10,000,000 kg (22,000,000 lbs) of grain every year.
The process produces a diseased liver that weighs 600-1,000 grams and is composed almost entirely of fat. There is virtually no nutritional value. Given the amount of grain required to produce this small amount of unhealthy food, foie gras represents the opposite of sustainable agriculture.
Foie gras farms are a form of factory farming and produce many of the same environmental hazards, including massive amounts of manure and slaughter waste. Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which provides most of the foie gras purchased by US restaurants, has a terrible record of polluting. The farm was fined recently by the state of New York for 800 violations of environmental law. In 2010, the Humane Society of the United States successfully sued Hudson Valley Foie Gras for releasing unacceptable amounts of chlorine, ammonia, and fecal coliform into the Middle Mongaup River in Ferndale, New York. Like other forms of factory farming, foie gras production harms the environment by producing excess waste that can potentially flow into crucial waterways.
Negative Impact of Excessive Corn Production
It is bad enough that foie gras production requires ducks to be cruelly force fed. Making matters worse is what they are being force fed: corn. Given current production techniques, corn is wasteful of resources and harmful to the environment. Growing corn involves inefficient water usage, affects sensitive land areas and causes pesticide runoff. According to one estimate, 20% of corn was grown on land designated as highly erodible. Furthermore, environmentally-friendly crop rotation is no longer being implemented because of pesticide use and machine irrigation.
The chemicals used in corn production negatively impact the environment:
· Nitrogen diminishes water quality.
· Phosphorous promotes excessive plant growth in waterways.
· Ammonia contributes to greenhouse gases.
Any boom in corn production increases the use of fertilizer, which subsequently increases runoff. More runoff lessens a waterway’s ability to filter out chemicals and sewage that may enter the water. It is predicted that nitrogen pollution in the nation’s largest watershed, the Mississippi riverbed, will increase 34% by 2022 if there continues to be a boom in corn production.
Corn production requires a lot of water. That is because 7,000 to 8,000 gallons are lost daily from water evaporation in the corn. It takes corn 55 days to fully mature, and corn needs to be watered more often because it grows with short, shallow roots.
The production of foie gras, which requires force feeding ducks massive amounts of corn, makes worse many of the most challenging environmental problems we face.