We use down insulation in some of our products because of its excellent performance. Down has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic insulation, and it is also more compressible. High grades of down offer the most substantial benefits and are the superior option for certain applications. We offer products made with both synthetic and down insulation – in different weights, grades and styles – to meet our customers’ varied needs.
Patagonia down comes from grey geese raised for their meat and livers on farms in Hungary. Feathers and down are by-products of food production. They represent only a fraction of the market value for geese. Like most commercial farming, raising geese is not without its downsides, and environmental and animal rights groups have uncovered inhumane treatment and environmental problems.
In December 2010, the animal-rights organization Four Paws accused Patagonia of using down from geese that had been live-plucked for their down and force-fed to produce foie gras. We refuted their allegations based on assurances from our down supplier. But some evidence presented by Four Paws prompted us to take a closer look at our down supply chain.
In 2011, we went twice to Hungary to visit the farms, slaughterhouses and processors that produce our down. We have instructed our supplier to buy down only from slaughterhouses, therefore avoiding the possibility of buying down taken from live birds. We found no evidence of live-plucking in the parts of the supply chain we visited. However, we discovered that the geese that supply our down are being force-fed to produce foie gras, as well as meat, and this does not sit well with us.
Change in this complex supply chain takes time. We continue to seek full traceability, research the processes and act where we can on what we find. We’ve located some promising supply chains outside of Hungary, whose down is derived from geese that are neither force fed nor live plucked. Supply is limited, but we will use it in some of our spring 2013 products and intend to introduce it into our larger line in future seasons.