Top chefs rally to fight California foie gras ban
More than 100 of California's top chefs are lobbying lawmakers to reconsider the state's impending ban on the duck-liver delicacy known as foie gras. With the prohibition set to take effect in July, the chefs are promoting a sort of bill of rights for ducks and geese.
The proposal, dubbed the "Humane and Ethical Foie Gras Act," would require farmers to hand feed the animals in a cage-free environment and impose limits on fattening. Farms would also be required to submit to regular inspections by "independently certified animal welfare experts."
Animal rights activists and others object to the sale of the delicacy because of how geese and ducks are force-fed through a pipe to plump their livers. The Legislature passed a bill outlawing the practice in 2004 but delayed implementation for 7 1/2 years.
Now, the culinary coalition, which includes Thomas Keller of Napa's the French Laundry, has descended on the Capitol in hopes of recruiting a sponsor to champion their cause. A handful of chefs delivered the hand-feeding proposal to the Assembly speaker's office Monday and plan to walk the halls and lobby their respective legislators this week, said Nathan Ballard, the group's spokesman.
Chefs will also be inviting the lawmakers to foie gras dinners to educate them about the delicacy, he said.
The group argues that the ban would create a black market for foie gras. "We want to create a humane market, not a black market," said Rob Black of the Golden Gate Restaurant Assn.
Former state Sen. John Burton (D-San Francisco), author of the foie gras ban, has argued that his legislation gave the industry enough time to find an alternative to force-feeding. "Unfortunately, producers have not used those years to develop an alternative production method and instead continue to use the same cruel force-feeding, which means that the wait is over," he wrote in a Times op-ed this month.
Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle this week, Burton was more blunt.
"They've had all this time to figure it out and come up with a more humane way," he said. "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."
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Seared foie gras with wild berry and mocha moose. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times