Foie gras: the delicacy that animal rights activists have been quick to point out is not so delicate. It’s the fattened liver from a duck or goose, and after many years of controversy over its production, bans have started springing up around the U.S. – with New York City next on the list.
With almost 1,000 restaurants serving foie gras in NYC, the city is one of the country’s largest foie gras markets. Yet City Council still voted 42-6 to pass a bill that prohibits storing, maintaining, selling, or offering to sell force-fed products or other foods containing it. Violators will also face serious fines, ranging from $500 to $2,000 But once the bill is signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, restaurants will have until 2022 before they have to remove foie gras from their kitchens.
One of NYC’s executive chefs, Marco Moreira, told Food & Wine that the bill seems to be making small businesses and working immigrants an unfair target, adding that a “more productive and impactful” target would be industrial farming.
In Chicago, a similar foie gras ban was repealed in 2008 – just two years after it passed. But in California, the same ban has stayed true. And the local chefs there say that they’re used to it by now.
Michael Cimarusti, the co-owner and chef at Providence in Los Angeles, and Josiah Citrin, the chef behind several California restaurants including Mélisse and Charcoal Venice, both say that foie gras was an easy target for animal right’s activists, and an easy and appeasing compromise with them for the state: its production and consumption are both limited, and doesn’t have nearly as many people willing to fight for it as the bigger industries.
“Nobody relies on foie gras for sustenance,” Cimarusti said. “Unless you are a duck farmer, this isn’t going to shut down your business or anything. It’s just one ingredient in a world of many that you just aren’t allowed to cook with anymore.”
Angie Mar, the owner and executive chef at the West Village’s Beatrice Inn, is simply not looking forward to the disappointment of her regular foie gras customers – but she believes deeply in better farming practices and education, and hopes that the ban will be a wake-up call. In the meantime, she plans on serving it despite the ban – “even if that means giving it away, as so many chefs in other cities have done,” she said.