Food Trends

Foie gras prices expected to rise as bird flu hits France

French foie gras can’t be exported outside the European Union due to a new strain of bird flu.

French foie gras can’t be exported outside the European Union due to a new strain of bird flu.  (iStock)

Foie gras fans are used to paying top dollar to get their hands on the delicacy but the pricey liver product may be even more expensive going into this holiday season. 

A virulent, highly infectious strain of bird flu has hit several foie gras producers in France, forcing the slaughter of thousands of birds to prevent the spread of the disease. On Tuesday, the agriculture ministry raised the risk level of the virus spreading from a moderate level to high, The Guardian reported. The announcement followed an outbreak of a severe form of bird flu-- the H5N8 virus--- at a duck farm in southwest France.

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As stores face a potentially limited supply, prices for foie gras could be about 10 percent higher during the holidays, said Marie-Pierre Pé, from the foie gras producers group Cifog. Foie gras is a traditional part of the French Christmas Eve meal and purchases during the holidays make up for about a third of annual sales.

But the return of the virus also means French foie gras can’t be exported outside the European Union.

A 2015 outbreak that occurred in the same region caused a 25 percent drop in production and a significant loss for the industry. Producers were reportedly optimistic that they could regain their bird-flu free status on Dec. 3 but now, with the new outbreak, France won’t be cleared for at least 90 days.

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The new strain reportedly spread from wild ducks in neighboring European countries. Subsequently, around 7,000 contaminated ducks are said to have been killed while 4,500 have quickly died from the virus in the Tarn.

Foie gras is a luxury food item made from the liver of a goose or duck. The method of forcing grain directly into the bird’s stomach using a metal tube pushed down the throat-- which subsequently causes the liver to enlarge-- has been a source of controversy among animal rights groups.