May 28 - French farmers who force-feed their ducks to produce foie gras for the luxury food market, are turning their attention to alternative fuels, using excess duck fat to run deisel vehicles. While it may not curb criticism of foie gras production, the farmers believe it's an efficient and responsible use for fat that would otherwise go to waste, as Joel Flynn reports.
For the French, few things excite the palate like foie gras. It's regarded as a delicacy...although its method of production is highly controversial. Ducks and geese are force-fed to engorge their livers, a practice appalling to animal rights supporters but protected by French law. For farmers in the south of France like Benoit Logie, it's a profitable, centuries old tradition... that now has a 21st Century twist. Not only can the practice produce food - it can also produce fuel. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FARMER, BENOIT LOGIE, SAYING: "With this force feeding, we produce confit (meat of duck preserved in its own fat), pate, cassoulet (stew) and foie gras of course and one of the so-called by-products of the cooking, is the fat. It is used in cooking but we have a surplus of fat production so it can very well be used as diesel biofuel, as fuels." The farmers plan to use the fuel to run their own machinery. The've even converted one of their barns into a refinery to make it. The oil produced from duck fat is mixed with alcohol and potassium to run in the engines. Jean-Marc Dubois says it will help farmers become more environmentally responsible and self sufficient. (SOUNDBITE) (FRENCH) FARMER, JEAN-MARC DUBOIS, SAYING: "We have been working on this project for 3 years. We are still at the experimental stage as we are the only ones who are doing this. At the moment it costs as much as diesel oil. But it's more an ecological and long term move rather than a monetary one." Dubois says the process itself uses materials found readily on farms anyway, from things like artificial fertiliser. (SOUNDBITE) (FRENCH) FARMER, JEAN MARC DUBOIS, SAYING: "Heat oil up to 60 or 65 degrees (Celsius). Then I mix potassium with 10% alcohol and when they are mixed, I can pour it into the oil and there is a chemical reaction. When the various products settle you have a product that is ready with biofuel on the top and glycerol at the bottom." Though these farmers are not yet turning a profit from their biofuel experiment, they say it could be profitable in the long term if other farmers and big business with government support switch to fuels like theirs. Although for many it's an idea that will only fuel the controversy over force-feeding. Joel Flynn, Reuters.