Foie Gras War: Chicago Slaughterhouse


Double Day cover of The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair another cover of The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair Double Day cover of The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

Will Chicago, once the nation's slaughterhouse (remember Upton Sinclair's The Jungle?), become deprived of one of the world's great slaughterhouse delicacies, foie gras? Most Chicagoans have probably never eaten foie gras, and The Chicago Tribune reports that the alderman Joe Moore, who proposed the ban to the City of Chicago, admits that he has "probably" never tried it (as if one would not be sure of tasting such a thing?).

Alderman Joe Moore Alderman Moore's proposed ban follows a unanimous vote in Illinois' Senate to ban the force-feeding of birds for the production of foie gras in that state. The proposal will be considered by Illinois House next year.

Last year, California banned the production and sale of foie gras, to commence in 2012 (see previous article), and legislation regulating it has been introduced in the states of New York, Massachusetts and Oregon.

Chefs Rick Tramonto and Charlie Trotter, who are on opposite sides of the debate, have finally found common ground on foie gras: both object to the city government legislating what people are allowed to eat. They believe it is up to restaurants and customers to decide.

Ariane Daguin, owner of D'Artagnan told superchefblog about the joint committee meeting of the Massachusetts state House and Senate:
Foie gras was discussed in Boston last Monday, and Todd English, with a whole stack of petitions [in support of foie gras], represented our industry well. Now the Mass. Reps want to think and inform themselves better (unlike Californians, who believed anything a vegetarian told them, as long as they include a show business-famous vegetarian)... Both the NY Farm bureau and the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) have declared that raising ducks for foie gras is not cruel.
Marcus Henley, operations manager for Hudson Valley Foie Gras, one fo three American producers, noted that the Massachusetts state legislature was careful to consider both sides of the issue, whereas only Farm Sanctuary attended the Chicago hearing. Also, he noted that no Media reported on the Massachusetts hearing, unlike Chicago -- for lack of fireworks, or is Farm Sanctuary the only group involved that knows how to push Media hot buttons?

On September 1, 2005, AVMA Journal reported:
Limited peer-reviewed, scientific information is available dealing with the animal welfare concerns associated with foie gras production, but the observations and practical experience shared by HOD members indicate a minimum of adverse effects on the birds involved.
The New York Farm Bureau wrote in opposition to New York State's bill:

Many are not aware, however, that because ducks normally gorge themselves before migration, they have a callous-like surface in their throat that allows them to be safely and humanely fed in this manner.

These are very strong statements that foie gras production is not inhumane or cruel. Evidently that message has not yet reached Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reports that some of the aldermen did not know what foie gras was: perhaps a little education is in order?

Henley told superchefblog that a great number of people call his company from Chicago. "We are hearing from friends we did not know we had," he said. For the next hearing in Chicago, which has no date set at present, Henley promises that Hudson Valley Foie Gras will be at hand to present the same arguments made in Massachusetts in support of foie gras production.

Stay tuned for the next round.

movie poster for The Jungle

Meanwhile, British celebrity chef Rick Stein OBE is getting hammered on his side of the Atlantic, too, for not coming down clearly and strongly enough against the French-devised evil of gavage. Recently, n his BBC Two TV series French Odyssey he stated that gavage was no worse than keeping battery hens.

In response to criticism, Chef Stein clarified last Friday on BBC Radio 4:
I really like foie gras and I imagine there are much more cruel things to be seen in British farming... I am not saying we should fail to disapprove about what the French are doing with their geese and ducks but maybe we should start not turning a blind eye to what goes on in our own farms... I think there are a lot of intensive farming practices in this country, and in France of course, that are more cruel than that... I was shocked by what I saw, but all I am saying is 'Let's clean up our own back yard first'.
In all the hubbub, superchefblog wonders aloud: has anyone seen The Meatrix lately?

Discussions including superchefblog:
Too Many Chefs
Gastronic Meditation and subsequent comments
ReMARKable Palate and previous comments

Newspaper articles:
Chicago Tribune
New York Times
Chicago Tribune
U.S. Newswire (Farm Sanctuary)
Time-Herald Record

Previous articles:
New York Times on Foie Gras
Before Store Wars: The Meatrix
Foie Gras War 2: Ban All Poultry?
Foie Gras War
From Boulud's gourmet hamburgers arise... delicate Philly cheesesteaks?
Super Chef vs. Governator: Todd English Fights For Foie Gras Rights

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the visual references to The Jungle. I read the book in high school and was just floored by the whole world that Sinclair portrayed. Might have had an influence on me becoming a Research Chef, but I doubt it.

3:18 PM, September 19, 2005  
Blogger james burke said...

seen 'the Meatrix'. It reminded me of 'Baby' that film about the pig on the famryard overdubbed with human voices. As a meat eater i love fois gras. My aunt lives in Perigord. I have such mixed feelings about this subject.
Totally agree with C.Trotter on restaurants deciding themselves regarding serving this dish. Also on Stein cleaning up worse practises in farmyards too. Still why does one get preference over the other.

nice blog.

10:37 AM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to the Interstate Commerce Act? How can states ban an agricultural product that is shipped across state lines?

If force feeding is the main issue, then perhaps other methods could be employed. For example, surgical destruction of the pineal gland -- in chickens -- causes them to eat continuously. Perhaps this might also work for ducks. It wouldn't be worse than, say, castrating young bulls to produce steers for the beef industry.

12:51 PM, December 04, 2005  
Blogger Erling said...

Thanks for a great article on the pros and cons of raising animals for foie gras. There is so much misinformation out there, and also as you point out so many farming practices that warrant more attention. Many forget that birds raised for foie gras live most of their lives in the open, with water and fresh air. And as for horrific practices that are more common in industrial farming of chickens, they serve only to stress the birds and degrade the quality. The farmers have an incentive not to harm or stress the birds.

I have one more suggestion for people uneasy about foie gras -- get it from geese. Most foie gras comes from ducks, which are cheaper to raise, but geese are more sensitive animals, and do not react well to e.g. single cages. The result is that geese are simply treated better. The taste is more elegant, too, so try real goose foie gras next time!

3:55 AM, March 09, 2006  
Blogger Raspil said...

it's official

3:04 AM, April 28, 2006  

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