Skip to comments.Foie gras could become faux pas in New Jersey
Posted on 08/27/2006 8:03:06 PM PDT by Coleus
Photo Gallery: Chef Gaspard Caloz prepares foie gras
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Foie gras? Au revoir. Pate? Passe.
One day, restaurant patrons might hear just that if New Jersey lawmakers join a growing movement against the fatty prepared livers of ducks and geese, the stuff of epicures' dreams -- and animal advocates' nightmares -- for 5,000 years. On Tuesday, Chicago began enforcing a ban on the dish. California is phasing it out by 2012, and similar laws have been under consideration in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois and Oregon. Even Philadelphia -- famously fond of the cholesterol-loaded cheese steak -- is thinking about outlawing foie gras, itself more or less a hunk of saturated fat. Now, a lawmaker from Bergen County wants to ban the animals' force-feeding -- a preemptive strike should any pate farmers want to set up shop in New Jersey. So far, according to the state Department of Agriculture, the state lacks any such farms. "They force a metal tube down their throats and they feed them unbelievable amounts of food several times a day," Assemblywoman Joan Voss, D-Fort Lee, says of foie gras producers. "Sometimes they cut their bills off. It's so awful. It's so inhumane."
For Gaspard Caloz, chef and co-owner of Madeleine's Petit Paris in Northvale, an existence without chubby duck livers is nearly too much to contemplate. Already, more than a dozen countries have disallowed pate production -- including Britain, Israel and his native Switzerland -- and now a legislator in his adopted homeland is heading in the same direction. "I think she's crazy," he says. Francis Schott -- a co-host of "The Restaurant Guys" AM-radio program and a New Brunswick restaurateur himself -- says he is puzzled by Voss's bill. "The definition of foie gras is a duck with a fattened liver from feeding," he says. "It's like saying you can make ice but you can't use water."
Michael Ginor, whose Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm in New York is the country's largest maker, puts it like this: "There is no other way. You either produce foie gras or you don't produce foie gras." Pate de foie gras first tickled palates during Egypt's First Dynasty, when chefs discovered that the bigger the duck liver, the better the taste. The animals naturally fattened themselves before migrating. To ensure a steady supply, the chefs started gorging the birds themselves, pouring grain down their throats. Ultimately they wound up with the base ingredient for a fragrant, buttery, slightly bitter paste. The craze spread all over the world. Today it is served as an appetizer, garnished with artichoke or truffles, or added to sauces and soups. According to French agriculture statistics, worldwide production in 2005 was 23,500 tons. The two main U.S. makers, in New York and California, supply most of the pate eaten domestically. "It's part of the cuisine, part of the gastronomy!" says Caloz, who serves a New York-produced foie gras over risotto for $18.50. "The people that come here -- that's all they want to eat. You eat that with a piece of French bread, toasted -- what more do you want?"
In recent years, though, animal-welfare activists have come down on the pate industry, distributing photos of fowl that are kept in darkness, dirty and wounded, with no choice but to eat. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other welfare groups say undercover investigators have found ducks and geese whose beaks have been removed, their bodies lumpy with tumors, skin weeping and maggot-infested, throats punctured. "It's one of the most cruel practices that can happen to an animal," says Nina Austenberg, mid-Atlantic regional director for the Humane Society of the United States. Voss says she doesn't have a problem with foie gras itself -- just the way it's made. "You can still get their livers expanded to 10 times their normal size, but it can be done in a humane way," Voss says. "We have people in hospitals that are on life support. They still can put tubes down their throats and give them nourishment, but it's not going to puncture their esophagus."
Ariane Daguin, whose Newark-based D'Artagnan is the country's largest distributor of foie gras, says the ban in Chicago actually has led to an increase in business. "It's some kind of movement of civil disobedience from the chefs," she says. "Orders have gone way up." Daguin, who as a child force-fed ducks on a cousin's foie gras farm in the Gascony region of southwest France, says she understands why the practice is perceived as cruel. "When you see a photo of a duck with a funnel in the neck, people look at that and say, 'My God,' " she says. "Hey, ducks have no gag reflex. Their neck is insensitive -- it is lined with cuticle, like collagen, like the nail of your finger. I know in my heart it's not cruel."
Ginor, the New York duck farmer, says his animals receive far better treatment than pigs, cattle, chickens and other livestock at high-production farms. "Every single duck is examined by a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian pre- and postmortem for disease, and nothing is found," he says. "At the end of the day what it comes to is perception. If you are a lay person who doesn't understand foie gras production or the anatomy of waterfowl ... when you look at a tube so-called shoved down their throat, it sounds fairly intolerable to a human. Ducks are not human." In recent months, publicity about the issue has led representatives from other states and Canada to approach his company with offers to help relocate, should any law in New York halt production. He wouldn't want to move operations, or his 210 employees, he says, but he will if he must. But, if Voss gets her way, not to Jersey.
Foie gras is already illegal in Chicago.
Oenology/food news ping.
I'll have a nice sauterne to go with my foie gras if you please.
Y'know, I've never tried foie gras, not being a big fan of liver in other forms, but someone on an earlier thread described it as "meat-flavored butter."
If it really is, I just might have to find some.
Thanks for the ping...
Let's not get hasty with the reflexive assumptions. I'm a pro-life vegetarian.
Then, again, I don't believe in using state power to force others to follow my lifestyle.
Let's not get hasty with the reflexive assumptions. I'm a pro-life vegetarian. >>>
That's her way of thinking and not yours I guess. I have to go by the facts.
And, what does that have to do with a pro-abort politician who wants to protect animals and not humans made in God's image. I have the same qualms with the Hindu's who are vegetarians because they believe that "all" life is precious and yet abortion rates are sky high in India and in the US most of the Hindu immigrants, including the small business owner, vote for pro-abortion democrats.
I know four Hindu's. Two are Republicans, one is a Green, and the fourth worships his very large income.
Again, a little knowledge goes a long way.
I know hundreds.
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