Food Fight: Chefs Rally Against California’s Foie Gras Ban

The Golden State’s ban on the duck delicacy goes into effect July 1, but some chefs are balking.
Is there a way to produce foie gras humanely? A group of California chefs says yes, and wants to overturn the state's impending ban. (Photo: Vetta/Getty Images)
May 23, 2012
Nichol Nelson hails from Minnesota, but has worked in food journalism in New York and Los Angeles for more than a decade. She served as an editor with Gourmet magazine for six years, and has contributed to several other digital and print food publications.

Even if you love the rich, unctuous flavor of foie gras, it's hard not to flinch a bit when confronted with how the culinary delicacy is created: Force-feeding ducks to engorge their livers isn't exactly...kind.

Amid outcry about the treatment of the birds used in foie gras production, California legislators enacted a foie gras ban in 2004. The law had a seven-and-a-half year delay built into the legislation, but it's finally set to go into effect on July 1. However, a group of chefs has banded together to try to overturn the ban—and improve the lives of the ducks used to create foie gras, reports USA Today.

The group, which calls itself the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS), wants to keep foie gras in the state, and has come up with a set of new rules that would change the game for foie gras ducks. Under the CHEFS proposal, farmers would have to raise the birds in a cage-free environment, minimize stress and use gentler feeding methods that don't damage the birds' beaks or esophagi.

Legislators who wrote the bill stand by it. "It's not about foie gras," John Burton, a former California legislator who wrote the law, told The New York Times. “It's about inhumane treatment of those birds.”

But the 100-plus members of CHEFS think their approach can bring both sides together. "I am a stickler for quality, and I want California's standards for foie gras to be something we all can be proud of," says Victor Scargle, executive chef of Lucy in Yountville, California, on the group's website.

The chefs need a two-thirds vote in both the state Assembly and Senate to overturn the ban.

Where do you stand on the issue of foie gras?

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