More problematic was the impact on breeding farms, which found themselves with only scant numbers of male chicks to offer producers this year.
Labeyrie, the brand that dominates sales among mass retailers, expects a shortage of 30 to 40 per cent this holiday season, by far the most important time of the year for the sector.
Spiralling energy and feed prices, fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will also make foie gras more of a stretch for family budgets.
“There will be enough for the holidays but in limited quantities,” CIFOG director Marie-Pierre Pe told AFP in September. “We’re hoping that people are going to be reasonable and will share what little there is.”
Old habits die hard, however, and at the bustling weekly duck market at Samatan, a foie gras bastion near Toulouse in the heart of Gers, much of the crowd wanted only the pale, plump male livers.
“Females are much, much smaller and after force-feeding, the livers are smaller and less attractive visually,” said Didier Villate, a veterinarian who has overseen the Samatan market for over 40 years.
Next to a tray of glistening male livers, many of the female livers had red blotches with thick dark veins, “which is unfortunately something we find quite often” even though it doesn’t change the taste or texture, Villate said.
“Clients are surprised, so we have to make a big effort to explain to consumers that there is no danger – It’s purely visual, you can buy and eat them just the same,” he said.
But male or female, prices have spiked to between €55 and €60 a kilogramme (US$26 to US$29 a pound), or “€15 to €20 more than normal,” said Constant, calling 2022 “catastrophic for the sector”.
For Gilberte Bru, who like dozens of others rushed in at the market’s opening whistle to stock up for the holidays, the decision was easy – she picked the male livers.
“Yes, because they are bigger,” she said.
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