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Serious Eats blog concludes that foie gras is not unethical

December 19, 2010 |  6:00 am

A gauntlet was thrown down Thursday by food blog Serious Eats when writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote a lengthy dissertation on why -- after visiting a foie gras farm in the Hudson Valley -- foie gras is not unethical.

He tours the facility and takes pictures of the ducks in the giant sheds they live in. He isn't allowed, however, to take pictures inside the sheds where the ducks spend the final 25 days of their lives being fed by tubes that are forced down their throats in a practice known as gavage. He's told this is because they are using a new technology that they don't want their competitors to see, not because anything cruel is happening, and he's content with that answer. He remains so after watching the gavage, writing:

We walked down row after row of pens until we got to one where a worker was just about to start feeding. At La Belle, the ducks are fed three times a day for a total of up to 240 grams of their custom-designed feed. As we watched, the worker — a petit woman — climbed into the pen and sat on an overturned box. One at a time, she pulled a duck towards her and held it between her legs with its neck arched upwards. She gently squeezed the base of the duck's neck ("checking to make sure that he's finished all his food from the last feeding," says Bob), then eases a flexible plastic tube down the duck's throat. A machine whirls, a small bulge forms where the food is deposited, and the duck walks off, giving its head one shake, but otherwise seemingly unaffected.

As you might expect, the post has already generated 200 comments from people on both sides of the fence on the issue. If you read the comments it seems that -- despite appearances -- forcefully fattening a duck's liver for foie gras isn't really at the heart of the controversy. Instead, the controversy provides the perfect lens through which to examine one's feelings about meat in general, and how animals are treated while they are being raised.

If you have strong feelings about the subject, please feel free to leave a comment below.

-- Jessica Gelt

 Photo: Izzy Yanai, vice president and general manager of the farm Hudson Valley Foie Gras, at his facility in upstate New York, one of only three U.S. producers of the controversial gastronomic treat, known universally by its French name. Credit: AFP/Getty Images