It’s only July, but the supply of a Christmas favorite is already under threat
Bird flu threatens to create a shortage of foie gras this Christmas after the disease wiped out millions of poultry across France.
Although the seasonal delicacy is far from people’s priority this summer, producers have warned of looming shortages ahead of the holiday season when foie gras consumption in restaurants and homes is at its peak.
As of next week, some producers in Alsace – considered the historic capital of foie gras in France – will say that production will be at a standstill due to a shortage of ducklings, five months before peak demand, according to Le World.
For artisanal producers, the holiday season accounts for up to 70% of annual income.
The French agriculture ministry said that since May more than 16 million poultry had been destroyed, the majority in the Pays de la Loire region of western France, where 70% of the ducklings in the French foie gras industry have hatched.
Bird flu was particularly virulent in western France due to a combination of high winds, which fueled transmission, and the return of migrating birds.
Production is expected to fall by half this year and hatcheries will only start to recover next spring, warned Cifog, the professional body for the fattening poultry sector in France.
France is the world’s leading producer and consumer of foie gras, responsible for 80% of world production, according to Cifog.
But in recent years, it has fallen out of favor with French consumers and officials concerned with animal welfare. Cities like Lyon, Strasbourg and Grenoble have banned foie gras from being served at official municipal functions.
Per capita consumption has also declined over the years. According to figures from the French Ministry of Agriculture, consumption per capita has fallen from 271 g (9.6 oz) in 2015 to 207 g (7.3 oz) in 2020.
The controversial practice of force-feeding ducks has spawned an emerging market for plant-based fake foie gras from brands such as Gaia, Senfas and Gourmey, a French start-up that has raised $10 million ($8.4 million pounds) in seed funding for its laboratory foie gras concept.
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