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Foie gras (literally, "fatty liver") is an enlarged liver from a duck or a goose. In some countries (France, notably, but also Hungary and others), the food is part of a cultural and culinary tradition and is eaten reguarly during the winter holidays. In other countries, the food is controversial and the production of it is banned.

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To produce foie gras, producers must enlarge the size of the liver. To a much smaller degree, with some breeds, this happens naturally in the wild when they gorge before migrating. In that case, the size of the liver of those migrating breeds may double.

However, to make foie gras, the liver must be six to 10 times its normal size. And the only way to do this is to force-feed the duck or goose a steady diet of, roughly, one pound of corn and water per feeding, twice a day, for two to four weeks. This force-feeding, or « gavage, » is what makes the delicacy so controversial.

Virtually everyone—from activists to producers—agrees that if you kept force-feeding the birds any longer than force-feeding period, they would die. What people can’t agree on is how harmful the side effects are. Moreover, activists and producers are increasingly at odds over whether these side-effects occur in a just a few or a large percentage of the birds, and whether they are sufficiently harmful to warrant banning the delicacy outright.