Gastronomy

Published on March 16th, 2015 | by Maureen Youngblood

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The Fight for Foie Gras

For the great majority of Americans, eating foie gras is not a common occurrence. Many people in the United States go their entire lives without ever eating it, as it rarely appears on the menus. In the United States, this historically French delicacy is reserved mainly for fine-dining restaurants in big cities.

Foie gras has become controversial in the United States, particularly in California, largely due to animal rights activist groups that believe the forced feeding process, called gavage, is cruel and inhumane.

The practice of gavage goes back thousands of years to Egyptian times ; there are even pictographs of Egyptians feeding geese in order to fatten them up. The practice continued throughout the Mediterranean and was even used by the Greeks and Romans. Later, the Jewish people continued the practice which spread even further across Europe.

1024px-Foie_gras_IMGP2349 WIKIPEDIA

Foie gras. Photo by Wikipedia.

 

It was in the era of Louis XIV that fine dining began to be enjoyed by more than just the royals. Foie gras became a menu item in Parisian restaurants that served the middle class following the French Revolution. Having recently visited Paris myself, I recall seeing it on the menus of almost all the restaurants. Each restaurant proudly offered foie gras in a variety of forms: alone, on a salad, as pâté, or as a mousse, only to name a few.

In the late 1800’s foie gras crossed the ocean and landed in the United States. It was not until the latter part of the 1900’s that foie gras was actually produced in the United States, mainly by small, family-owned farms. Fine dining enthusiasts have enjoyed the opportunity to be served foie gras with little or no issue up until the last few decades.

In 2004 animal rights activists in California presented a bill, following which the law SB (Senate Bill) 1520, was passed- banning the production and sale of foie gras.

1024px-Moulard_Duck_Foie_Gras_with_Pickled_Pear

Moulard Duck Foie Gras with Pickled Pear. Photo by Wikipedia.

“This law establishes the following provisions concerning force-feeding a bird as defined hereafter. The law prohibits any person from force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the size of its liver beyond that which is normal, as well as employing another person for the same purpose. The bill also forbids the sale of such within the state. The law authorizes an officer to issue a citation for a violation of these provisions in the amount of up to $1,000 per violation per day.”

The bill was passed in 2004 and went into effect in 2012; it was heavily opposed by many California-based restaurants and foie gras farmers. The way restaurants were able to get around this new law was to not sell foie gras, but to give it as a “gift” to a guest who would request it; the price of which would be embedded in other menu items, say, a glass of wine.

Not only in California, but in other areas of the country, different groups have presented petitions for bans on foie gras; however, these have been unsuccessful. In 2008 the city of Chicago repealed a previous ban that had existed since 2006, and the state of Maryland and the city of Philadelphia each have rejected proposed bans. Currently not a single state has a law prohibiting the buying and selling of foie gras, and only California currently bans the production of it using gavage.

Three groups such as PETA, (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals), the Humane Society, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, to name a few, plan to appeal the reversed decision in order to have foie gras made illegal once again, thus ensuring that the battle over foie gras continues.

Sources:
History of Foie Gras. Artisan Farmers Alliance, www.artisanfarmers.org.
Retrieved January 14 2015 from http://www.artisanfarmers.org/historyoffoiegras.html
Parsons, Russ (2015, January 7) Foie gras can go back on California menus, judge rules. www.latimes.com
Retrieved January 14, 2015 from
http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-foie-gras-can-go-back-on-the-menu-judge-rules-20150107-story.html

Foie gras back on the menu at California restaurants. www.cbsnews.com
Retrieved January 14, 2015 from
http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/foie-gras-back-on-the-menu-at-california-restaurants/

California Legislative Information. www.legalinfo.legislature.ca.gov.
Retrieved January 14, 2015 from
http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=200320040SB1520

Headed Photo: Bienmanger.com


About the Author

was born and raised in the United States and is currently living in California. She discovered her love of the French language and culture in high school and continued her education of all things French in college where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She enjoys living near the ocean, traveling and French pastries.



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