Vegan and animal-friendly alternatives to foie gras are taking off in France just as a severe bird flu outbreak has ravaged duck flocks and cut short supplies of the traditional Christmas delicacy.
French chef Fabien Borgel, who manages the "42 Degres" vegan restaurant in Paris, created what he calls a "faux gras" two years ago as a substitute to the foie gras traditionally made from fattened duck and goose livers.
Foie gras is considered part of France's culinary heritage, but the practice of force-feeding ducks or geese to enlarge their livers is condemned by animal activists.
"You have people that have never tasted foie gras and will never taste it and they want something festive for the year-end parties. Others want to change the way they eat and are heading towards alternatives," Borgel said in his restaurant.
Borgel's veggy foie gras, containing cashew nuts, sunflower and coconut oil, looks like the traditional foie gras but is more creamy.
In France, by far the largest foie gras producer, output is expected to fall between 30% and 35% from last year after bird flu devastated duck flocks in most of Europe while prices would rise about 20% due to the drop in supply combined with soaring costs, producers group CIFOG said earlier this year.
"It could make some people want to try something else," Borgel said. "It could be an opportunity."
42 Degres is putting its "faux gras" on the menu from December through February.
Foie gras was officially classified as part of the "cultural and gastronomic heritage" of France but some countries and U.S. states such as California and New York have considered banning it because of on animal welfare concerns.
A poll released by French foie gras producers on Wednesday showed 77% of domestic consumers were not ready to switch from the original to one made from plant-based products.
"There is room for everyone," Borgel said. --Reuters