Friday, September 29, 2006

Lawmaker May Put Forth Bill to Ban Foie Gras in New Jersey

What is foie gras and why is it bad?

Foie gras (translated literally from French as "fatty liver" and pronounced 'fwah grah') is produced by cruel and inhumane farming practices. At just a few months old, ducks are confined inside dark sheds and force-fed enormous amounts of food several times a day. A farm worker grabs each duck and, one by one, thrusts a metal pipe down their throats so that a mixture of corn can be forced directly into their gullets. In just a matter of weeks, the ducks become grossly overweight and their livers expand up to 10 times their normal size.

As a result, ducks raised for foie gras have difficulty standing, walking, and even breathing. Many of them die before the end of the force-feeding cycle, and the mortality rate for ducks raised on foie gras farms is among the highest in the farming industry. Necropsies performed on foie gras ducks have shown extreme obesity, impaction of undigested food in the esophagus, lacerations in the throat, and a proliferation of bacterial and fungal growth in their upper digestive tracts.

More information on foie gras can be found at:


Bill would ban foie gras in N.J.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Associated Press

Top chefs are squawking over a New Jersey lawmaker's plans to propose legislation that would ban the distribution and sale of foie gras in the Garden State, where a major supplier of the delicacy is based.

Assemblyman Michael Panter said he plans to introduce the bill next week because the production of foie gras is a "barbaric practice that has no place in any civilized society." The legislation also would prohibit the distribution of the fattened fowl livers from New Jersey or into the state.

Panter, a vegetarian, said he is unsure if such a ban could withstand interstate commerce laws.

"I can't say with certainly whether we can ban the distribution beyond New Jersey," said Panter, D-Shrewsbury. "We've put in the bill what we'd like to accomplish."

Foie gras, French for "fat liver," is made by force-feeding geese and ducks to expand their livers up to 10 times their normal size. It has been the subject of legislation from New York to California and its production is already banned in several dozen countries, mostly in Europe.

Chicago in April prohibited restaurants from selling foie gras. City officials there have introduced a bill asking for its repeal.

Even a whiff of the New Jersey bill has already made some top chefs in the New York area nervous because a major supplier of the delicacy, D'Artagnan, is based in Newark.

Anthony Bourdain, a celebrity chef and author, said a ban on the sale of foie gras would be "a bomb in the New York restaurant scene."

"Foie gras is a primary color in the flavor spectrum that we use in the kitchen," Bourdain said. "It simply goes back to Roman times. To ask chefs to cook without that is to ask a painter to not use the color blue."

Panter said he has sympathy for the New Jersey businesses that would be affected, particularly D'Artagnan, but called profiting from the food "blood money."

"At the end of the day, finance and economics should not take precedent over protecting living things. I consider this blood money," he said. "When the greater good comes into play, sometimes it has to trump economics."

Ariane Daguin, D'Artagnan's owner and chief executive officer, said the proposed bill would devastate her 20-year-old business of about 120 employees.

"This is not American," she said. "In the country of immigrants, I find this an injustice."

She said ducks and geese force feed themselves as part of the migratory process and they don't have gag reflexes.

"We did not invent force feeding. This is how they are in nature," Daguin said. "I'm all for humanely raised animals. This is my life. This is my business."

She said foie gras makes up about 30 percent of her business, which does about $45 million in annual sales.

Her customers are a who's who of the country's top chefs, including Thomas Keller, of the French Laundry in northern California and Per Se in New York; Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York; and Daniel Boulud, a French chef with restaurants in New York, Las Vegas and Florida.

Bourdain, a native of Leonia, N.J., said chefs would be devastated at the prospect of losing D'Artagnan and Daguin as a supplier.

"It's like beating up on Julia Child," he said.

In addition to restaurants and shops all over the country, D'Artagnan supplies about 60 restaurants in New Jersey, including Stage Left in New Brunswick.

"She is the premier place from which to get foie gras," said restaurant co-owner Francis Schott. "She sets the standard for sure."

The planned legislation in New Jersey is the second measure concerning the rich food, typically only found at high-end restaurants.

Assemblywoman Joan Voss proposed a bill last month that would "prohibit the force feeding of ducks, geese and other poultry for the production of foie gras."

"I want a more humane way of producing it," said Voss, D-Bergen. "I don't want to ban anything."

The chairman of the state Assembly's Agriculture Committee said, while he "abhors the practice," there are no farms in New Jersey that produce foie gras.

"So at this time, I don't think there's any real pressing need to have the bill move forward," said Douglas Fisher. "Obviously there are lot of issues that need to be ranked higher."

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