Spain is the fourth-largest producer in Europe, trailing France, Hungary and Bulgaria. Annual production of 613 tons and exports worth over 3.5 million euros. Foie gras from Spain? You bet!
Many importers and distributors probably don't know that Spain is a leader not only in the production of Ibérico ham, extra virgin olive oil and fresh, seasonal fruit. It's also a leading producer of a gourmet product traditionally associated with our neighbor, France. Which product is it? Foie gras.
It's true! Spain is part of the select group, Euro Foie Gras , which connects European producers, and the industry in Spain has created an interprofessional association to strengthen its "commitment to transparency and best practices in the production of foie gras and duck by-products. This refers to breeding, rebreeding and fattening operations, slaughterhouses and processing plants where this centuries-old food is produced."
These statements were made by Ricardo Miguelañez, who manages Interpalm (Interprofessional Association of Fatty Palmipeds) in an interview with Foods & Wines from Spain. Miguelañez also said that Spain has become a top-tier producer in the industry, with several clear advantages in terms of reaching the final consumer: "The main advantage that sets Spanish foie gras apart from the rest is that it offers excellent value for money. Moreover, one area that Spain is focusing on, which would be another competitive advantage with respect to other countries, is animal welfare and the environment on duck and geese farms, which use production models that are environmentally friendly and where best practice models have been implemented in accordance with demand from real consumers."
Spanish foie: Selectos de Castilla company
One of Spain's pioneers in the sector is Selectos de Castilla. It's run by three brothers born in France but whose family has roots in Terra de Campos, Castile-León. According to Manuel de Prado, this combination of French culinary tradition in connection with foie gras and the use of a natural ecosystem like that of Terra de Campos is one of secrets to the company's success: "Our greatest strength has always been understanding the ins and outs of this profession, having studied breeding, processing, market challenges and trends, and having the capacity to think ahead, thanks to our position in Europe through our Spanish-French training."
Extreme weather in the Castilian steppe, home to bodies of water such as natural lagoons, has, for thousands of years, provided the perfect place for migratory birds to stay. "The cold and dry weather for nine months of the year and extremely hot and dry summers with very cool nights creates a healthy environment, free of enemies like viruses, bacteria and small insects that need humidity and warmer temperatures to thrive. We raise the ducks as naturally as possible with best practices and breeding techniques, without the need to use chemicals or medicines," says Manuel de Prado.
Selectos de Castilla is practically the only Spanish company that fattens the ducks with corn, in accordance with the French Label Rouge standards, and it exports around 25% of production. Among its most successful products is "mi-cuit foie gras, with no additives. Duck magret in various formats including fresh, cured and cooked are the main products we export."
Spanish foie: Malvasía company
Malvasía is another producer in the same region, Castile-León, in the province of Soria. The weather conditions here are also ideal for making foie-related products. The company's sales manager, Antonio Castilla, tells Food & Wines from Spain about their commitment to quality through official certifications and awards: "In February 2016, Malvasía was the first Spanish company in the duck and goose sector to obtain SAE certification, which allows us to export our products to countries with sanitary requirements that are different from those in the EU. This certification has helped drive sales from exports, mainly to countries in the Americas, Japan and Hong Kong, which accounted for more than 20% of the total in 2018. The awards we've received, such as the distinction for our duck confit at Gulfood Dubai 2019, inspire us to continue on the same path."
Spanish foie: Martiko company
We conclude our journey through the Spanish foie industry in Navarre, where Martiko has achieved a notable export performance in recent years. According to the company's export manager, Maite Bazán, "For Martiko, a fundamental part of its strategy is working with new formats and products with a view to meeting our consumers' needs and trying to surprise them with new launches." Martiko sells duck foie gras and goose foie gras with very distinct organoleptic qualities: the former is smaller and has a more intense flavor, while the latter is larger and has a smoother flavor.
According to Maite Bazán, "Always offering the best product in the best conditions and with the highest quality is attributable to our commitment to breeding and caring for our animals properly. Their wellbeing is part of our identity, and for that reason we have always been, and will always be, pioneers in adapting to the European regulation. We even developed an open-ended investment program, which has made our farms and installations into role models for the industry."
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/ @ICEX.