What Is Foie Gras? Exploring The Popular Fatty, Rich French Delicacy.

NUTRITION

Evidence Based

Written by SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD on February 20, 2020

Foie gras, or fatty duck or geese liver, is a French delicacy that’s popular around the world.

It’s often mistaken for pâté de foie gras, a smooth spread made from foie gras and white wine. However, the term “foie gras” refers to the whole, intact liver.

Foie gras is fatty and rich, with a velvety texture and a meaty, buttery flavor. It can be prepared in a variety of ways, but it’s most often served as a pâté with bread or crackers.

Foie gras is highly nutritious, containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, but it’s also expensive. Additionally, its production is controversial, with many people considering it inhumane to ducks and geese.

This article reviews foie gras nutrition and uses, how it’s prepared, and its benefits and downsides.

Pâté de foie gras on bread

Nutrition

Foie gras is high in fat but also rich in vitamins and minerals, as the liver serves as a storage organ for many nutrients.

Nutrition information for foie gras is unavailable, but 1 ounce (28 grams) of pâté de foie gras, which is made with a small amount of white wine, provides the following nutrients (1Trusted Source):

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Vitamin B12: 111% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin A: 32% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 7% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 7% of the DV
  • Niacin: 5% of the DV
  • Copper: 13% of the DV
  • Iron: 9% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 5% of the DV

The white wine may alter the nutrient content to some degree, but generally not the fat or vitamin and mineral content.

Because of its high fat content, foie gras is rich in calories. However, it’s also high in a variety of vitamins and minerals.

One ounce (28 grams) of pâté contains over a day’s worth of vitamin B12, a key nutrient that helps your body build healthy red blood cells and maintain your energy levels (2Trusted Source).

Foie gras is also a good source of vitamin A, which helps prevent vision problems and promotes healthy cell growth throughout your entire body (3Trusted Source).

It also contains the minerals copper and iron. Like vitamin B12, copper and iron are important in energy metabolism and the production of healthy red blood cells (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Foie gras is mostly fat. It’s rich in several nutrients, including vitamin B12, vitamin A, copper, and iron.

How it’s made and used

A key part of foie gras production is force-feeding a special diet to ducks and geese.

The diet is based on corn and is highly fattening, which causes the birds to rapidly gain weight and accumulate fat on and around their livers.

The fattening process is what makes foie gras a delicacy, as the livers of ducks and geese that haven’t gone through this process aren’t as fatty or smooth. In fact, the force-feeding process enlarges the liver of the birds by up to 10 times (6Trusted Source).

Foie gras can be sold raw, semi-cooked, fully cooked, whole, or in sections.

It’s a key part of French cuisine. Roasted, pan-fried, or grilled foie gras are popular dishes, but most people are more familiar with a spreadable form, such as pâté de foie gras, which is typically served with a baguette or crackers.

SUMMARY

Foie gras is made by force-feeding ducks or geese until they’ve accumulated significant amounts of fat on their livers. Foie gras is typically served as a spread with a baguette or crackers.

Benefits

Foie gras is rich in nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin A, copper, and iron.

It’s also high in calories and fat. That said, the fat is a healthy combination of unsaturated and saturated fat.

Most of the fat in foie gras is monounsaturated fat, which is highly anti-inflammatory and may help reduce your heart disease risk. Another rich source of monounsaturated fat is olive oil (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).

Plus, the saturated fat in this food isn’t as harmful as it once was thought to be. Current research suggests that foods higher in saturated fat can be included as part of a balanced diet (9Trusted Source).

Because of its high fat content, it’s also filling. This may help you regulate your intake, which is important to consider because of its high calorie content (10Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Foie gras is rich in certain nutrients and boasts a favorable fat profile, containing mostly anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat.

Drawbacks

Given its unique production methods and status as a delicacy, foie gras is expensive.

Additionally, many places have banned it since force-feeding birds to enlarge their livers is considered inhumane.

For instance, New York City passed legislation in October 2019 that’ll ban the food from the city beginning in 2022. Traditionally produced foie gras is also banned in California (11, 12).

That said, the traditional force-feeding practice is protected in France, as it’s a key part of French culinary culture (13).

Fortunately, some foie gras producers have implemented non-force-feeding methods.

If you do eat foie gras, you shouldn’t each too much in one sitting. It’s rich and high in fat, so eating an excessive amount could cause digestive upset.

In addition, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should only eat heat-sterilized, canned foie gras. Homemade or fresh foie gras carries a higher risk of bacterial contamination because it’s prepared at low temperatures.

SUMMARY

Foie gras is controversial because the production methods are widely considered inhumane. Pregnant women shouldn’t consume homemade or fresh foie gras due to the risk of bacterial contamination.