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Foie Fights: Leggo My Liver

By • June 6, 2012 • 4 Comments

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The Trump Card in Play

Like boiling lobsters and indulging in veal, foie gras is a divisive issue among chefs, diners, and animal rights activists. For years, PETA-types have been protesting against the production and consumption of foie gras, which, in case you weren't aware, is made by force-feeding geese until their livers swell to abnormal proportions. And on July 1, the first ever foie gras ban passed by American lawmakers will take effect in (where else?) California.

As you might expect, this development ruffled quite a few feathers. "The people that build Porches, you don't want your gasoline taken away from you," chef Casey Lane told the New York Times. "You're trying to work at the top of your field," and foie gras is integral to this lofty ascension. According to Lane, foie gras is so important because "it's like having a trump card year round."

Truly, foie gras does bring something to the table that can't be emulated, a fact that most carnivorous foodies can't deny. However, the reliance on the smooth, fatty meat can seem a little lazy—like sprinkling truffle oil on a mediocre pizza and calling it a day. In their recent article, The New York Times interviews five California chefs who bemoan the loss of the livers. Some of them even go so far as to throw goodbye parties, or "wakes," for the controversial ingredient. Others are working against lawmakers to overturn the ban, suggesting that, were new ethical standards in place, the entire thing would be unnecessary.

Unfortunately, the only method currently known for producing foie gras involves something many of us would describe as cruel (and some think is akin to waterboarding), so it might be a long time before Californians get to dine on the 'gras again. But devoted listeners of This American Life might remember this episode, in which chef Dan Barber questions a man in Spain who claims to have discovered a totally humane way of making foie gras. His solution? Just let the birds stuff themselves.

For now, that kind of perfect production is still a flight of fancy. Though Eater has some suggestions on how to get around the ban, most chefs will probably just suck it up and let their "gasoline" go for now. And maybe, just maybe, this will inspire a few to new heights of gastronomical creativity. We've got our fingers crossed.

California Chefs Mount a Repeal of Foie Gras Ban Set for July 1 from The New York Times

Comments (4)

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almost 2 years ago ATG117

I'm a vegetarian, but I have no problem with people eating ethically raised meat. That said, I do not understand how eating foie can be defended. If anyone has a good argument in support or a defense of the way it is produced, I'd love to hear it. I think I read somewhere that Thomes Keller said his foie came from a trusted source and that the geese were raised well, but that, to me, makes little sense if we accept that the geese need to be force fed.

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almost 2 years ago Katy K

Krusher, I used to eat foie gras, but now I find it ethically questionable as well. It's a shame, because it is so delicious, but the way it's produced is (in my opinion) cruel... which is why I was so excited to hear about a Spanish chef who was producing foie gras without hurting (or even caging) his birds. I just hope that becomes standard, someday....

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almost 2 years ago krusher

I actually couldn't bring myself to eat foie gras when I was in Gascony in September last year for ethical reasons. Recently I have been diagnosed with an enlarged liver. Don't let anyone tell you it is not unpleasant. It hurts. It is uncomfortable. When I compare the size of duck foie gras livers to the size of healthy duck livers on sale at my local butcher, the difference is obscene.

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almost 2 years ago TXExpatInBKK

Do they have to be the enlarged, unethical ones to be tasty? Or do the healthy duck livers at your butchers taste just as good? I've never bought them before but have a recipe I want to try and I'm wondering if I can just use the ones from happy ducks.