The Fight for Foie Gras in California

. 4 min read

This weekend I traveled to Southern California where I was fortunate enough to eat foie gras at two different restaurants. And it was heavenly.

Sadly, beginning in July 2012, foie gras will be banned in the state of California. I’m horrified and angry that California, a state where I spent over 20 years of my life (and paid taxes), has outlawed this delectable traditional food.

Why Foie Gras?

I know I’ll get negative comments on this post because I always do whenever I write about foie gras. But I won’t stop writing about foie gras, because I adore it. Foie gras is one of my very favorite foods (probably my second favorite after Époisses raw milk cheese).

Foie gras (pronounced “fwah grah”) is the fattened liver of a duck or goose produced by a feeding process called gavage. Did I mention that it is liver? Hands down, the most nutritious food on the planet.

There are a lot of liver haters out there. But if you haven’t had foie gras, you have never had the best tasting liver that exists. The gavage process transforms the liver into a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth, flavor explosion. It’s truly one of the most fabulous foods on earth.

But What About Animal Cruelty?

There is nothing cruel about gavage. Ducks and geese do not have a gag reflex. They can swallow large fish and other prey without pain. The gavage (or “force feeding” as it is called, which I think is not an accurate term) does not hurt them in any way.

My mother visited a foie gras farm on a recent trip to France. When she asked if the gavage hurt the geese, the farmer said, “Are you kidding me? They line up for it.”

Michael Ginor, owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, author of Foie Gras… A Passion, claims his birds come to him to be fed and says this is important because “a stressed or hurt bird won’t eat and digest well or produce a foie gras.” (Source)

Furthermore, in nature, ducks and geese naturally gorge themselves on grains and fatten their livers. They do this prior to migration. As early as 2500 BC, ancient Egyptians fattened birds forced overfeeding.

Chefs and Foie Gras Producers are Outraged

Ariane Daguin, owner of D’Artagnan, a foie gras distributor, writes:

Although foie gras production methods are safe and humane, animal rights extremists are pushing to make the delicacy illegal throughout the country.  This movement is not only anti-agriculture, but at its very soul, anti-American. Currently, the only state with a ban in place is California, where producing and selling foie gras will be prohibited as of July 1, 2012. Not only will this decimate the only foie gras farm in the state, it will impact countless restaurants. The ban infringes on the freedom of the nearly 40 million citizens of California.
Even if you don’t eat or sell foie gras, this ban will impact you. The issue is not about whether the production methods are safe and humane — scientific studies prove they are. The issue is the right of the public to choose what to eat. It is about the American value of freedom, which includes the freedom to eat and sell what is lawfully produced.

Chef Ludo Lefebvre concurs:

“I want people to have the freedom to eat what they want. Animal rights people would turn everyone into a vegan if they could. I don’t want animal rights people to tell me what to eat… Foie gras is one of the greatest ingredients, a French delicacy. I was born and raised with foie gras. It’s like if you took kimchi away from the Korean people.” (Source)

Chef Anthony Bourdain made this video showing that foie gras is not cruel:

Here’s another video worth watching:

Attend the Dinner

What can you do to repeal this outrageous law?

If you live in Southern California, you can go tomorrow night (Monday, March 12, 2012) to Haven Gastropub for a foie gras dinner.

Chef Greg Daniels, on the dinner:

Foie gras production by responsible, artisan farmers in the U.S. is ethical and humane.  Ducks naturally overeat to fatten up for migration, and farmers have just harnessed that natural instinct.  The gavage they use to feed doesn’t hurt the duck.  The fact is when you see pictures or videos of tubes being pushed down a duck’s throat, it looks painful: however, ducks have no gag reflex, they breathe through their tongues, and they swallow whole fish.  It’s just not true to say that this is animal cruelty.  That’s where the problem lies: LIES.
If you want to go after the real criminals, go after the beef and poultry producers.  The atrocities that take place in factory farming are so clear and disgusting, but these are big enemies – they have money.  They have lobbyists.  They don’t fold.
That’s why we’re doing this dinner: to not fold.  To not just give up and go away quietly.  This a chance to be heard, and we’re taking it.  We deserve to be able to serve foie gras.  It’s an ethical and humane choice that we make — right alongside the other choices of sustainable seafood and humanely raised beef and pork.  It’s a decision we base on the education we obtain on a daily basis from those that are connected to our farmers, and even the farmers themselves.
We want people to know that these good choices are out there, and that foie gras is one of them. (Source)

How I wish I wasn’t getting on a plane in a few minutes to fly back to Vegas today! If I didn’t have to go back to work and to my family, I would be at this dinner.

If you are in the vicinity, I hope you will make every effort to go.

If you can’t make it, I hope you will take a moment and sign the petition below.

Sign the Petition

If you support the right to eat the food of your choice, please click here to sign the petition to keep foie gras legal in California.

What Do You Think?

Do you support the freedom of foie gras farmers and chefs to provide this nourishing, nutrient-dense food to those of us who want to eat it? Or do you think foie gras should be banned? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo credits: Bite Club Eats, Wikipedia