Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Paris start-up sees a future for lab-grown alternative foie gras

Paris start-up sees a future for lab-grown alternative foie gras

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
French cultivated meat start-up Gourmey co-founders Nicolas Morin-Forest (centre), Victor Sayous (left) and Antoine Davydoff (right) pose in Paris on July 19. AFP

Paris start-up sees a future for lab-grown alternative foie gras

It’s the quintessential French delicacy, but increasingly targeted by animal welfare activists: Can foie gras grown from duck cells find a place at the table for gourmet food fans?

That’s the goal for Gourmey, a Paris-based venture that raised $10 million from European and US investors this month to perfect its recipe for making fattened duck liver in a lab.

“There’s a very strong need for an alternative to regular foie gras, a controversial product that needs to re-invent itself,” said Nicolas Morin-Forest, one of Gourmey’s three founders.

“We want to show that cultured meat is not limited to burgers but can also be used for gastronomic products,” he said.

Duck livers, a speciality of southwest France in particular, are prized either on their own – star chef Alain Ducasse has served it seared with braised pears – or cooked as a velvety foie gras pate.

It is obtained by force-feeding ducks with a tube stuck down their throats, a practice denounced by critics as unnecessarily cruel and distressing for the animals.

California has outlawed foie gras sales for years and New York plans to do so next year.

Britain prohibits foie gras production and is weighing a ban on sales, while European Parliament lawmakers proposed last month to prohibit the forced feeding of ducks or geese, another source of foie gras.

Mass meat production is also in the cross-hairs of environmental campaigners who say the industry consumes too much water and energy while producing huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas.

“With more 9.5 billion human beings on the planet in 2050, we’re going to have to be producing much more meat – the conventional models that require significant resources won’t be enough,” Morin-Forest said.

Housed in a university research lab, Gourmey has spent the past two years developing their process for faux livers able to pass muster with chefs and food fans.

‘90 per cent there’

Its founders include Antoine Davydoff, a cellular biologist, and Victor Sayous, a doctoral student in molecular biology, and they now have around 20 employees.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A millefeuille of potatos, foie gras and black garlic prepared by Le Carroussel restaurant’s chef Olivier Said. AFP

“In terms of taste and texture, we’re 90 per cent there,” said Sayous, who hails from the foie gras heartland of southwest France.

“Last Christmas I served it to my family on toast, alongside traditional foie gras, without telling them. Some were blown away and hadn’t noticed the difference,” he said.

Their recipe starts with taking cells from the fertilised duck egg and placing them in an aluminium “cultivator” where they swim in a nutrient solution maintained at 37 degrees Celsius.

As the cells divide and multiply, their “food” is adjusted to promote the growth of liver cells that are ready after two to three weeks.

A little vegetable fat is then added to obtain the creamy consistency, and chefs have been brought in to help fine-tune the results.

“It has taken us over 600 attempts. Several times a week we taste different formulas, and we’ve ended up with a recipe that is pretty decent, even if it’s not yet perfect,” Morin-Forest said.

Will it fly?

With its latest funding round, Gourmey will move to a 1,000-square-metre facility in central Paris aimed at proving to investors the viability of large-scale production.

The start-up also aims to lower its costs and plans to start growing chicken, turkey and duck meats.

But first its foie gras will need certification from health authorities – so far only Singapore has approved lab-grown meat, for chicken nuggets made by a US firm.

Initially Gourmey will look to market its livers in the US and Asia, “where there is both an obvious need and a more advanced regulatory climate,” Morin-Forest said.

Closer to home, requests will be evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority.

But winning over officials might prove tricky.

“Count on me, in France meat will always be natural and never artificial!” Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie tweeted last December.


  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Bosba: The first Khmer woman composer from UK’s Cambridge

    Bosba Panh is just 25 years old, but she’s already accomplished some impressive milestones for herself and the Kingdom. On July 24, she graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge as the first Khmer woman composer and Khmer music graduate ever at

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway