Sonoma Foie Gras (producing our Artisan™ brand)
Our family business celebrated over 25 years of Foie Gras Excellence, although in July 2012 we were forced to close our doors due to the foie gras ban in California. We sincerely thank you for your loyalty and appreciation you’ve had for our products over the years. This has been a challenging transition period, but each of us is doing our best to grow from this experience.
Although we cannot sell any duck products at this time, we have exciting opportunities in the food world, continuing the legacy of bringing authentic, premium goods to market with integrity and excellent customer service.
We will keep you updated in 2013!
In California, our Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras Farm produces the best duck foie gras (fatty liver) and meat in the United States for more than two decades. In 1985, our founders and owners, Guillermo and Junny Gonzalez, left their homeland of El Salvador to pursue a new venture: the establishment of a foie gras farm in the United States. They traveled first to France where they apprenticed in foie gras production with the respected Dubois family in the Perigord Region. At that moment in time, they vowed their commitment to respecting the noble duck and its bounty of products, including magret, legs, and the prized foie gras.
In November of that year, Guillermo traveled to Northern California to explore the wine country in hopes of finding a farm and processing plant to launch their business. His first steps were to meet with the California Department of Food and Agriculture in Sacramento, and with poultry specialists in the Avian Science Department of the University of California at Davis. Since the beginning, he has been committed to following proper procedure and complying with all laws and regulations governing animal agriculture.
A Day in the Life
Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare, and utilizes humane techniques in the raising and feeding of ducks. Ducks are never individually caged and roam free range for most of their lives.
The ducklings are received when they are one day old. They spend the first 5 weeks in a barn, under heat lamps and on bedding of wood shavings while they develop their feathers. They walk about, flap their wings freely, and have access to all natural feed and water. Once they have enough feathering, they are brought out to the walnut orchards, where they continue to roam free range for about two months. Here again, they have access to all natural feed (no hormones or antibiotics), water and shade.
During the final two weeks, they are housed in temperature-controlled barns, where they are kept in groups of about 10-12 ducks per pen measuring about 30 square feet. They are fed twice per day by the same feeder.
The first evidence of foie gras is found in ancient Egyptian history, some 45 centuries ago. In the wild, ducks and geese gorge themselves prior to migration in order to temporarily store fat in their liver and skin, which they use for energy during migration. The managed feeding in foie gras production utilizes the duck’s physiological capacity to transform the excess feed into fat and store it in the liver and skin.
Each feeding takes only a few seconds and the pressure applied has been studied to be non-injurious to the duck. A funnel is inserted down the duck’s esophagus, which deposits food as it is drawn out of the esophagus. Ducks do not have a gag reflex, throat or stomach, and the esophagus serves as a holding area for the feed while it is digested. The duck’s esophagus, as with any waterfowl such as the blue heron, which is able to swallow large, live fish, is expandable and pliable. For these reasons, the feeding is not harmful to the animal, as proven by scientific studies.
Since the process of producing foie gras is physiological rather than pathological, the fattened liver, or foie gras, created by managed feeding, would return to its normal size if the process stopped.
Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras
Artisan “à l’Ancienne” was introduced into the market in early 2003 and is the premium brand of the Sonoma Foie Gras farm. The word “artisan”, now an integrated part of our original name, represents foie gras as made by the artisans of Southwest France. It represents our limited, artisanal production, using the traditional diet and evisceration methods that we learned while living in Dordogne.
After being raised for about 12 weeks on all natural feed, the ducks are fed for 2 weeks with an old-fashioned, whole cooked corn diet that contains no antibiotics or hormones, which results in a more flavorful foie gras.
The processing takes place in close proximity to the farm, and the evisceration is performed once the carcass is cold, which avoids any damage to the structure of the foie gras and meat. These are air-chilled overnight and then vacuum-packed, resulting in a clean, easy to work with product. Our production techniques have allowed us to create a product of unique quality, bringing together finesse of taste and excellent yields when cooked.