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The Enduring Legacy of Foie Gras

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Power, politics, luxury, and 25 thousand tons of goose liver

Throughout history, foie gras has been viewed as symbol of wealth and power. From gracing the King of Sparta’s table to inspiring the decor in some ancient Egyptian burial tombs (entering the afterlife surrounded by gavage-themed murals, definitely a power move), fatty, flavorful goose liver has a reputation for being fancy food for fancy people that dates back thousands of years.

In part because of this perception, foie gras also regularly finds itself at the center of controversy. The ingredient’s high price tag makes it a particular target for animal rights activists — fine dining at the expense of animal suffering — despite the fact that geese being raised for foie are treated, on average, significantly better than animals raised for more traditional meat needs. Modern farmers especially are interested in dispelling the rumors that their work is unusually inhumane by being open and transparent about their methods.

Monetary and ethical setbacks aside, foie gras remains as popular as ever. Watch as Eater Investigates dives into its historical and cultural significance, based off a popular Eater feature written by Wyatt Williams, "A Wild Goose Chase."

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