This past Monday a few of us from Locanda took a little jaunt up to the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Farm. One of our long-time purveyors, D'Artagnan, extended us the invitation to see the farm and witness their process first hand, and to their delicious ducks and foie gras. Since foie gras isn't Tuscan you won't find it on the menu at Locanda, though we do receive our duck from D'Artagnan. However, we ate, drank, and learned a whole lot about foie gras that would be criminal not to share.
During our visit we were shown the nursery, growing area, gavage, and processing areas. My favorite part, naturally, was the nursery, which largely surpassed my threshold for cuteness. Each week, 5,000 male ducks are placed in to the 90 degree nursery where they stay for four weeks. We got to hold them for a few minutes. I had never felt so warm and fuzzy.
After the nursery, the ducklings are herded over to the growing area. During the first two weeks they double in weight almost every day. Over their entire stay of four weeks, their body weight will increase over 20 times. (Talk about weight problems!)
After 12 to 13 weeks, the fully grown ducks are moved to the finishing stage of gavage. Finding food in nature is often difficult for ducks due to a number of factors like varying weather conditions and inter-species competition. Therefore, ducks have evolved to be able to fill up whenever they find an abundant source of food. At Hudson Valley Farm, they never feed the ducks more than they have been observed to eat voluntarily. During the gavage process, ducks are fed a proprietary mix of grains (reflective of a natural diet) with a high protein level.
After gavage the ducks are sent to processing. While never a pleasant topic to divulge on, as far as we could observe, the ducks are treated as humanely as possible. Upon entering the processing area, they are placed on a line and stunned so that they do not feel the cut for exsanguination.