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Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704


Foes See Foie Gras as a Fat Target - Updated

2006-06-02 13:49:17

By Martha T. Moore

USA Today

Three duck farms in the USA - two in New York and one in California - produce nearly 800,000 pounds of duck liver annually, worth about $27 million wholesale. In a process that producers call "gavage," cornmeal is poured down the ducks' throats three times a day for four weeks. The ducks are slaughtered when they are 16 weeks old.

Michael Ginor, owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the largest producer, says ducks naturally gorge and enlarge their livers before the long haul of migration. They have tough throats designed to swallow food whole, including entire fish, and have no gag reflex. If force-feeding is stopped, the liver returns to normal size. "There is no pain," he says.

"The goal of the farmers is to have happy ducks," Daguin says. "Because a happy duck is a good duck."

Bauston, however, says the ducks suffer damage to their throats and can barely walk or breathe because of their enlarged livers. "It's an appetizer, for crying out loud. At what cost? It's gustatory narcissism. What are we willing to do for this flavor?"

Some chefs, most famously Chicago's Charlie Trotter at his eponymous restaurant, have stopped using foie gras. But others, most famously Thomas Keller of the French Laundry Restaurant in Napa County, Calif., don't want to.

"I don't know where you draw the line," says Stephen Starr, who owns a dozen restaurants in Philadelphia, including The Striped Bass and Alma de Cuba. "We probably shouldn't sell chickens either, because it looks like they have a pretty miserable life." But he says he won't object if the city bans foie gras, even if his chefs do.

'The Duck's Still on the Plate'

Brendan Dougherty, chef de cuisine at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, a French restaurant in Philadelphia, serves foie gras. "I love it as a cook," he says. "The way I look at it is, this is something that has been going on for years and years and years. It's a way of life in France." If chefs are going to cook meat, it is splitting hairs to worry about foie gras, he says. "In the end, the duck's still on the plate whether it was stuffed or not."

For all the fighting words, U.S. foie gras production may be on its way out - or at least over the border. Last year, Ginor helped draft legislation for the New York Legislature that would have given him until 2016 to stop producing foie gras or take his ducks elsewhere. It was an effort, he says, "to control our own destiny." The bill died in committee.

In California, Sonoma Foie Gras will have to end production in six years. But the company may shut down sooner. It has lost its duckling supplier and processor, Grimaud Farms, because Grimaud also does business with Whole Foods, the nationwide grocer. Whole Foods, which hasn't sold foie gras since 1997, won't do business with a company that slaughters ducks for foie gras.

"We've been very clear that we want to partner with other businesses that have the like values of treating farm animals humanely," says Margaret Wittenberg of Whole Foods. "Foie gras isn't included in that list."

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