Paris (CNN) Fois gras, a French delicacy that is as delicious as it is controversial, is a staple of top-notch restaurants across the country. But now it is disappearing from the menu during an “unprecedented” crisis that has seen some manufacturers consider reducing parts.
At the heart of the problem is the bird flu epidemic that has been spreading across the country – and Europe – for months. It has already destroyed the country’s poultry industry, but now threatens one of the country’s largest strongholds: its McLean star restaurants.
As the regular supply of luxury goosebumps dries up, Lombard is scheduling emergency meetings with local producers.
Foie gras is no stranger to crises.
Its traditional production, which includes feeding geese and ducks, has long been condemned by animal rights activists who have succeeded in banning such practices elsewhere.
Yet while concerns over animal cruelty have largely reduced the appetite for French food, another threat to Avian’s well-being is now holding back consumption.
In France, 16 million birds have been killed in a bid to control the bird flu epidemic.
Elaine Putton / Noor Photos / Getty Images
The town of Les Eyes, where Lombard’s restaurant is located, is in the heart of Perigord, one of the epicenters of the latest bird flu epidemic.
“This number is unprecedented for France, which has never suffered such a major crisis,” said Marie-Pierre P., director of France’s Inter-Professional Committee for Fui Grass Producers.
Production of fui grass in France is expected to decline by 50% this year as the epidemic has affected 80% of fui grass producers in the country.
With 35 years of experience in the foie gras industry, Pé is no stranger to avian influenza. Like the seasonal spread in the human world, bird flu comes to Europe almost every year when birds migrate from Africa.
This year the epidemic appeared in the spring and spread to the region of Pays de la Loire in the west and the region of Perigord in the southwest – two major areas for poultry production in France.
According to Pé, Pays de la Loire alone represents 72% of the duck and geese in the French foie gras industry.
“I have a message with a small smile. [to the customers and producers]”We need to share with each other,” Pé said, adding that people should reduce their use of foie gras this year so that more people have the opportunity to enjoy it.
“There will definitely be smaller packaging sizes to make serving all customers easier,” he said.
Isolation and vaccination
The 1862 restaurant house Les Eyes is at the center of the epidemic.
Packshot / Adobe stock
To make matters worse, Europe’s other major foie gras producers are facing a similar crisis, making it harder to meet the shortfall through imports.
According to the latest European Commission report on the epidemic, bird flu has been detected in the European Union since October 2021, including in the member countries of the European Federation of Fui Grass, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria and Hungary.
To help eradicate the epidemic and normalize production in 2023, Pé and his fellow foie gras producers rely on two words that Covid Pandemic has made very familiar: isolation and vaccination.
“We have a monitoring program that follows the same principles we know to fight CoVID-19,” he said.
In areas where bird flu has been detected, producers are sheltering ducks and geese to ensure that there is no contamination from migratory birds.
According to Pé, this requires producers to reduce the number of poultry on their farms so that they have enough space indoors.
Candidates for the two vaccines are on clinical trials, but will not be available until early 2023, P said.
Back in Les Eyes in southwestern France, Chef Lombard is working on new dishes to fill the void left by the lack of foie gras.
“Bird flu, the war in Ukraine and all that, we will run out of products and we will have to adapt to the products we have,” Lombard said.
“2022 will be a year of vegetable dishes and less meat.”
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