A Wendy's Foie Gras Burger Was A Real Thing (In Japan)

If you're not sure what foie gras is, that may be because the food is considered a "delicacy" in some areas, but it is banned in U.S. states such as New York and California. Finland, Italy, and Turkey are just some of the countries that have also banned foie gras. Foie gras, or "fat liver" in French," comes from a duck or goose that has been force-fed to make its liver a lot bigger than normal. While foie gras is often linked to France, in 2011, Wendy's in Japan debuted a foie gras burger, a pricey menu item that cost $16.

The foie gras burger coincided with Wendy's return to Japan. In 2009, Zensho Holdings, which owns multiple Japanese restaurants, decided not to resume its franchise deal with the Wendy's/Arby's Group in Japan, causing all 71 Japanese Wendy's to close in 2010, despite having a home there for 30 years. The new relationship the Wendy's/Arby's Group eventually formed led to some unexpected menu items you probably haven't encountered at your local Wendy's.        

When did Wendy's introduce a foie gras burger?

What caused a menu item that seems more likely to appear at an upscale restaurant to become an option at Wendy's in Japan? The story begins at the end of 2011 when Ernest Higa, who is in charge of Higa Industries Co Ltd, assisted with Wendy's resurrection by agreeing to work with the Wendy's and Arby's crew. Higa told Japanese Today that after Wendy's closed its doors, its popularity in Japan was evident, as Wendy's fans begged the chain to return to their country on social media. 

The first new Wendy's opened in Omotesandō, an upscale neighborhood in Tokyo that is known for shopping. Higa shared with INSIDER, "We'll further differentiate our restaurants by adding innovative new menu options created exclusively for the Japanese market, including the Avocado Wasabi hamburger and the Truffle and Porcini Grilled Chicken sandwich." According to Time, the foie gras burger that appeared on the Omotesandō menu in 2011 was part of a menu called "Japan Premium" and the menu's "Rossini burger" consisted of foie gras and truffle butter. When it debuted, its $16 price tag was considered a sale. Since the posh burger made the news over a decade ago, there has not been much talk about the foie gras burger.  

What happened to Wendy's foie gras burger?

In 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tweeted "Ducks & geese R painfully force-fed w/ metal pipes 4 #foiegras. STOP @Wendys from selling this 'delicacy' in Japan!" Wendy's replied to PETA with "We don't sell foie gras in our Japanese restaurants. Thanks!" Its brief shelf life on the Wendy's Japan menu suggests that either the burger was not a best-seller, the chain experimented with different options, or animal rights organizations' feedback worked to remove this menu item.

Today, Japanese Wendy's locations still have a fairly distinct menu. In 2016, Wendy's Japan took on full ownership of First Kitchen Ltd., another Japanese fast-food chain, from Suntory Holdings Ltd, a move that has led Japanese Wendy's to be renamed Wendy's First Kitchen. According to the website of Wendy's First Kitchen in Minato City, Tokyo, the current menu includes a teriyaki avocado burger and a teriyaki avocado chicken filet burger. The menu also lists a bacon egg burger and a burger that is pictured with no bun that Google translates to "wild rock." Some Wendy's First Kitchen locations have a similar menu. Wendy's First Kitchen has more than 130 restaurants. 

Considering foie gras has been named one of the most controversial foods on Earth, even leading one chef to drop foie gras from the menu after receiving death threats, it seems unlikely that Wendy's menus will feature a foie gras burger any time soon.