Coalition of 100 Chefs Decides to Fight the Foie Gras Ban

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Happy ducks come from California? Photo: Artisan Foie Gras

A group of 100 chefs from across California, including big names like Thomas Keller, David Kinch, and Ludo Lefebvre, have just submitted an eleventh-hour appeal to the California legislature to overturn the impending ban on foie gras. Though the law was passed over seven years ago, no one seems to have taken it seriously until now with the ban about to take effect in two months. The chefs along with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association have put together a charter that calls for humane, hand-feeding of ducks and geese, and they make the compelling argument (which Ken Frank made in the L.A. Times a couple weeks ago) that the ban will only create a black market for foie gras and more room for cruelty to the birds by less than reputable producers. "It's a stupid law," says Daniel Patterson. "If we want to change how we eat in this country, there are a thousand other ways, like school lunches." Furthermore, these chefs say, the way foie is being produced, via the age-old French tradition of gavage at the state's only foie gras farm, isn't cruel.

"It sounds so horrible in concept and theory that people can jump on it," says Cyrus chef Douglas Keane, who doesn't even serve milk-fed veal at his restaurant on moral grounds. "But for those that haven't seen what happens, which I did with my crew, these ducks were not in the least bit uncomfortable ... I've seen ducks that have been on gavage for fourteen days. I've touched their necks. This is husbandry, this is farming."

The argument, if you haven't heard it by now, is that the esophaguses of ducks and geese are pliable, meant for swallowing fish whole, etc., and that they gorge themselves in nature twice a year before migration. When done humanely, gavage and the subsequent liver-fattening are not so clearly harmful to the birds as critics have long said. (Sonoma's Artisan Foie Gras, which regardless of the fate of the ban has lost its lease and plans to close June 1, provides this explanation of the process.) You can read the full chefs' charter and the list of 100 signatories here.

Former state senator John Burton, the man who sponsored the original 2004 bill to enact the ban, is still having none of this talk, and the fact that 100 chefs are coming forward hasn't changed his position in the slightest. "I'd like to sit all 100 of them down and have duck and goose fat — better yet, dry oatmeal — shoved down their throats over and over and over again."

Foie gras chefs hungry for fight against ban [Chron]
California chefs join forces to fight foie gras ban; this is their charter and list of signees [Scoop]
Earlier: Napa Valley Chef Argues, Once Again, That Foie Gras Is Not Cruel
Some CA Chefs Lament as Both Shark Fin and Foie Gras Get Set to Be Banned