It’s all about the ducks.
At LaBelle Farms in Sullivan County, a three-hour drive from New York City, the thousands of ducks quacking around the property would probably agree.
As one of the nation’s two foie gras producers (Hudson Valley Foie Gras is their only American competitor), LaBelle takes their duck production seriously, despite ongoing criticism of the decadent French appetizer.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” said Bob Ambrose, a minority partner of LaBelle Farms and their retail shop, Bella Bella Gourmet. “What we’re doing is something that has been done for thousands of years.” The upstate farm has been run for 16 years by brothers Hector and Nelson Saravia, who founded LaBelle in 1999.
Ambrose, who has worked with the Saravias since 2004 stated that he “very much” thinks that foie gras is an ethical food to eat, despite controversy regarding the force-feeding process a foie gras bird must undergo in its last few weeks before slaughter. “We’re very proud what we do and of how we do it,” he said.
“Ducks do it in nature, they gorge themselves,” Ambrose explained. “A duck is set up very differently from you and I. You can see a picture of a duck eating a whole fish on the Internet — its stomach is made to hold food and expand and contract.”
LaBelle breeds and raises its own ducks, all inside shelters to protect ducks from migrating bird flu. Ducklings and larger ducks are free to roam and quack around, until they’re sent off to a second production center where they’re fed 28 pounds of feed in three weeks, to fatten them up for foie gras.
Though LaBelle is known for its foie gras, the farm uses each and every part of the duck, from the gizzards to the testicles to the carcass.