You may have heard of foie gras, the artificially fattened liver of a goose or duck served as a pâté. In the culinary world, it is considered a delicacy, but this fancy food has a dark side. Here are five of the biggest reasons to avoid eating foie gras; these views are shared by many who disagree with both the method and reasons for its production. Those who enjoy eating it, and of course its producers, will argue against these reasons. Weigh your options and you can decide whether this dubious dish is worth its many costs.
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It is worth mentioning that many people consider gavage, the process of force-feeding an animal to enlarge its liver artificially, an unethical and cruel practice. There are many schools of thought on this issue, and it's worth noting that there are ethical producers and unethical producers for every kind of food available. In many gourmands' opinions, a happy animal is a tasty animal, so it stands to reason that a high-quality producer who is open with their processing policies is the best choice for those who choose to consume foie gras.
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High Fat Content
Foie gras is renowned for its smooth, creamy taste, but that luxury comes with a price. The fat content of fatty goose liver is a startling 86.1 percent because birds store excess fat in their livers. A one-ounce serving of foie gras contains 12 grams of fat and 42 milligrams of cholesterol. To put that in perspective, a 3.5-ounce hamburger at McDonald's contains 9 grams of fat and 25 milligrams of cholesterol.
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Risk of Disease
Regular consumption may raise your risk of developing a variety of serious medical conditions. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a certain compound in goose or duck liver may trigger amyloidosis disease in genetically predisposed people. Alzheimer's, Huntingdon's disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis are all related to irregular amyloid protein buildup. Does this mean you'll get one of these conditions just by eating fatty poultry liver on your vacation to Paris? Probably not, but your risk of developing the disease is higher if you already carry the genetic markers for amyloid-related disease and consume foie gras on a regular basis over a long period of time.
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Food Poisoning Potential
Many versions of foie gras are served cold or barely seared on the exterior and cool in the middle, leading to concern about food poisoning. In the early 1900s, it was thought that undercooked duck or goose livers were a high-risk food. The truth behind it is actually much more forgiving, because fat, which makes up the majority of foie gras, isn't as conducive to bacteria growth as other tissues. Nonetheless, don't eat undercooked pâté if you're pregnant or immune-compromised.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Technically, this one affects the health of your pocketbook. There's no way around it; at $50-60 per pound—the average price in most major metropolitan areas—foie gras can't be considered a budget-friendly food for most households. It may be to your benefit to spend your money on a more economical dish.
Solomon A, Richey T, Murphy CL, et al. Amyloidogenic potential of foie gras. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2007;104(26):10998-1001. doi:10.1073/pnas.0700848104