To Foie or Not To Foie?

Photo by Flickr user djjewelz
Photo by Flickr user djjewelz

If you're a California-based fan of foie gras, best clear your eating schedule for the next month-and-change. You're going to want to stock up on your fill, and then some, of the French delicacy composed of specially-fattened duck liver. Because on July 1st, the dish is heading to the metaphorical electric chair, and it doesn't look like the Governor will be issuing a stay of execution.

Way back in 2004, the state passed a law stating that "duck liver cannot be served... if the duck was force fed, which is the method used by duck raisers for the liver to become fatty," a bit of legalese that essentially bans fois gras. A kink in the law specified that it could not be enforced until 2012, but the days of enforcement are nearly upon us. And so, as you'd expect, both sides of the foie fight are getting mighty rambunctious.

In one corner is that of certain Californian chefs who specialize in the dish. They've been fighting the law through a variety of methods, staging special pop-up foie-based dinners or offering five-course foie-laden gluttonous affairs, all the while pleading with anti-foie folk that the methods they're using to deliver the dish are "humane."

(Somewhat more brashly is Laurent Quenioux from Bistro LQ issued the reporter-baiting (good!) and police-baiting (bad, probably!) promise that he will not stop serving the dish after the July 1st deadline, and that "they can send me the foie gras police.")

These acts of protest, obviously, haven't been met kindly by the folks who pushed for the law's passage in the first place: The animal rights activists. They've been protesting above-mentioned foie-based events, and even taking to Yelp to write, in the words of Dan Moody, "blatantly false reviews" for restaurants like Melisse who are taking part in this last-gasp foie feeding frenzy.

Why are the animal rights folks in such a tizzy? Because they find the dish abhorrent and the treatment of ducks despicable. According to Amber Coon of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, the dish is prepared by "having large metal tube shoved down [the ducks'] throats three times a day, force-feeding massive quantities of corn gruel." Which, yes, clearly doesn't sound very pleasant at all.

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(That said, it can't be that much more unpleasant than, you know, eating them at all!)

But then those anti-animals arguments are countered with diagrams showing that ducks don't have the same gag/throat-pain sensors as us humans, and instead of heinous factory farms, most foie gras comes from small, exemplary, hippie-inclined farms.

And back and forth, and so on and so forth.

So while it remains to be seen how this Californian foie battle will shake out in the end, what's important now is your opinion: Is foie gras a disgusting dish that needs to be eradicated? Is it a cultural delicacy that should be allowed to be eaten freely? Or is this an arbitrarily-created battle line in the war between meat-eaters and animal rights activists that, ultimately, won't really change much anything at all?

To foie or not to foie? That, at least today, is the question.

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