At most Foie Gras Farms in the world, ducks are housed in individual cages for the sake of efficiency. At Hudson Valley Foie Gras we believe in providing conditions which allow for social interaction, exercise, freedom of movement, and reduction of stress. For this reason, our ducks are maintained cage free.
The essence of farming is caring for animals. At Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the premier producer of foie gras in America, this is especially true. Our many years of experience have taught us that respect for our people, environmental stewardship and the care of our animals are the keys to producing the quality products chefs and cooking aficionados expect from Hudson Valley Foie Gras.
Small numbers of specially bred ducks are individually hand fed to produce our unique, signature foie gras. Our trained caretakers spend as much as four times as much time caring for each animal as is the case in other foie gras farms. We believe our special care results in a wonderful product.
The unique physiology of ducks facilitates the hand feeding procedure. According to Dr. Lawrence W. Bartholf, 2005 President, New York Veterinary Medical Association and winner of several animal welfare awards, (NYSHS 1988) (HSUS 1989) (NVMA 1990):
- Unlike that of mammals, the throat of water fowl is lined with tissue similar to the palm of our hand, permitting them to eat live, wriggling fish, spines and all, without harm, or to accept the feeding tube.
- Ducks are adapted to store food in a sac at the base of throat to take advantage of food when they find it in nature. The capacity of the feed sac is two times greater than the maximum amount ever given in feeding.
- The wind pipe of waterfowl opens at the center of the tongue, not in the throat, so ducks have no need of a protective gag reflex and can breathe normally during feeding.
- Waterfowl are adapted to store fat in the liver when abundant food is available. The stored energy is especially valuable during times of need, such as migration.
In mammals, fat storage in the liver indicates a problem, in waterfowl it is a normal and reversible process. The reaction of the ducks to hand feeding is best illustrated by their ease with the caretakers. Ducks normally maintain a “flight zone”: distance from people. In feeding, the “flight zone” or avoidance of the caretakers is very small. We believe this is a very visible indication that the feeding process is not harmful. As we at Hudson Valley say: “Let the duck himself show you!”
Extensive Research regarding the animal welfare aspects of foie gras production has been performed in recent years, supporting the observations discussed here.
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