"Certainly a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."
-- Pope Benedict XVI, speaking when still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Six local chefs weighed in yesterday on California's upcoming ban
(July 1) on force-feeding birds and on selling the resultant enlarged livers. In 2006, I interviewed various local chefs on the topic for a feature story called "Foie Wars"
. A few foie gras farms have since adopted more "humane" ways of stuffing the birds, but most places still do it the old-fashioned way. Before I respond to each of the chefs who opined on the subject, let's just make sure we all know what this old-fashioned way implies.
During the last three to four weeks of a 16-week life, each day the force-fed bird gets grabbed by its neck and a metal tube nearly a foot long is inserted down its throat. This process takes place three times daily, until a ten-pound bird will consume 400 to 500 grams of feed -- the equivalent of a 175-pound person having 44 pounds of pasta pushed into him each day. The livers of each bird will swell six to ten times in size and weight, at which point the enlarged organ distends and displaces space normally reserved for the air sac, which causes the bird to gasp for air when breathing. They become so obese their legs get pushed out laterally and they can barely walk. Then again, they are restrained in shoebox-size cages so small they can't turn around or stretch their wings, so not being able to stroll is perhaps the least of their problems.
Now keep in mind: This isn't a process used to help feed billions of hungry children around the world with protein-rich liver. It isn't an unfortunate necessity required to provide working people with meat to eat. The millions of birds that suffer the lives described above do so for one reason only: so their livers can serve as an expensive foie gras delicacy for the privileged few who can pay for it. We're not talking about rich people only, but just the sort who can afford to dine at Red the Steakhouse
, Meat Market
, the Dutch
, and so forth.
Andrew Carmellini (the Dutch), Sean Brasel (Meat Market), Peter Vauthy (Red the Steakhouse), Jamie DeRosa (Tudor House
), Michael Schwartz (Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
), and Kenny Gilbert (the upcoming Swine Southern Table & Bar
) expressed dismay at California's foie gras ban. Each chef's argument more or less boils down to the same essence: Why not instead go after _________ ? (fill in the blank: chicken industry, shark finners, etc).
Sheesh -- what a weak defense. Here's what I mean:More »