Tag Archives: foie gras

Curds and Eh: Episode 3- Our Home and Native Cow

Who says Canadians aren’t beautiful?

Nestled amongst large rocky mountains (hills to some) in Baie-Saint-Paul lies Laiterie Charlevoix, a cheese factory owned by the 7 Labbé brothers. One of their most popular cheeses is Le 1608, a washed rind cheese that was launched in 2008 to coincide with Quebec City’s 400th anniversary. This cheese is aged 4-6months, has a pleasant pungency and is one of only two cheeses that I know that is made solely from the milk of the Vache Canadienne, a rare breed of cow (Pied-de-Vent is the other).

1608 at rest.

The ancestors of this breed were introduced to Canada from Brittany and Normandy in the early 17th century by Samuel de Champlain. I met with Mario Duchesne, a biologist and leading expert on the Vache Canadienne, who explained that the cows originally weren’t a distinct breed but a population with a variety of genetic traits. At their peak there were 300,000 Vache Canadienne but now only around 1000 are left in the world. Mario, the farmers, and Laiterie Charlevoix are fighting to protect this rare breed and ensure they don’t disappear forever.

Inside the leading edge waste water treatment plant

Besides delicious cheese, and a rare breed of cow, one of the most interesting parts of Laiterie Charlevoix is their wastewater treatment system. I know that’s generally not something to get excited about but things are different here. The Labbé family actually created an environmentally friendly system for disposing of their whey and wash water. Basically, bacteria cultures are added to the wastewater to ferment it. Methane gas is produced then collected and burned to heat water for cleaning, heat-treating the milk and warming the cheese vats. The remaining grey water is then cycled through a series of ‘ponds’ with plants such as canna, papyrus and elephant ears which act as filters removing Nitrogen and Phosphorus. At the end of this system, the clean water flows into a pond with koi fish to demonstrate its cleanliness and then into the nearby river.

Cabins on the Laiterie Charlevoix campground–walking distance to fresh Pain au Chocolat. Now that’s roughing it.

The Labbé family also produces a line of ice cream and preserves, has a dairy museum and runs a campground near the dairy.

It’s easy for travelers and curd nerds alike to spend several hours at Laiterie Charlevoix. It’s definitely worth a visit!

This post is part of a guest blog series by Kelsie Parsons.    For Eps 1, click here and Eps 2, Click Here.

(Kelsie will be blogging from the East Coast in the next installment, stay tuned!)

Sue’s Note:  I visited the Charlevoix region last year and other than beautiful scenery there is a whole Flavour Trail of delicious aritisanal foods to try; from the local cheese to traditionally made foie gras to the famous local lamb chops, sausages and smoked salmon.  Here is the Charlevoix travel piece I wrote about the adventure.


Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Curds and Eh, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Fee Fi Fo Foie

Guilt or no guilt?

If you ever want to elevate your picnic try try bringing some foie gras mousse.  This also applies events like bad movie night, a root canal or 3am at Sick Kids with your wheezing child.  I would add doing your taxes to the list, but if you’ve had the discipline to start your taxes you are certainly not going to continue knowing there’s foie gras mousse around.

This particular jar came from La Ferme Basque is Baie-St-Paul where we stopped during our Charlevoix vacation (read about it in the Globe) in August.  The woman who runs the operation is from the Basque region of France and makes the foie gras in a traditional way.  Even her lilting and soothing french accent could not make “force feeding” sound completely benign…. but it helped.

I suppose had I had serious moral dilemma with the whole thing I wouldn’t be showing you a half-eaten jar.  But, at least on a smaller scale using more traditional methods the whole thing sounded more humane.  And tasted so good on a baguette.

Near the end of their lives, for four weeks the geese are force-fed corn to fatten their livers (the traditional process is known as gavage).  Apparently geese are very social and like to be together (…birds of a feather is so true…) so unlike large industrial producers La Ferme Basque keeps the geese in groups, not seperate cages, so they are less stressed.

let's put a far-away face to these geese

Industrial Geese in individual cages:

Goose 1: Hey, did you just have a tube filled with liquid corn and corn syrup shoved down your throat?

Good 2: Yes.  Can I sleep beside you?

Goose 1:  Impossible.

Small Farm Raised Geese kept in groups:

Goose 1: Hey, did you just have a tube filled with corn kernels shoved down your throat?

Goose 2: Yes. Can I sleep beside you?

Goose 3:  Get in line.

Apparently the main reason some geese die because they are overfed.  Errrr…OVER over-fed.  On this smaller scale there are two or three people who do the feeding twice a  day.  In traditional “gavage” the same feeders always work with the same geese and they keep a hand at the base of the neck and can tell when it is dangerous to give more food.  It varies from goose to goose  (I know my limit with gummi bears  is 3/4 of a lbs).  In industrial production each goose gets the same amount of corn-liquid no matter what their size.

I also did not know that there were specific breeds of geese which were naturally better at digesting.  So obviously better for forced gluttony.   All in all, the geese are treated humanely (aside from the tube in the throat) and then shipped off to be slaughtered and turned into luxury food.

See–it’s hard to be totally on board when everything you write has to be followed with “aside from the tube in the throat”.


The goose had a great day at the CNE followed by some light tapas and Salsa dancing (aside from the tube in the throat).


The goose loved going on joyrides in the tractor and dancing under the light of a silvery moon (aside from the tube in the throat).

I just don’t know.

Decide for yourself—  read this excellent posting about the controversy and the guilt of loving foie from the Guardian UK.


Filed under Blogs with cooking tips, Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible, Uncategorized