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Foie gras banned in California

Selling the fattened duck or goose liver delicacy will be punishable by a $1,000 fine from this weekend

AS OF July 1 the production and sale of foie gras will be banned in California.

Restaurants will risk fines of $1,000 a day if they serve the French-style delicacy.

The state’s politicians say the force-feeding – gavage - required is cruel.

The law was passed in 2004, but there was a seven-and-a-half year delay, meant to allow producers to find alternative ways to make foie gras. However, according to the Humane Society of America, which supported the ban: “They preferred to just do nothing.”

Foie gras, though often described as a “pâté”, is simply the enlarged liver of a goose or duck that has been over-fed in the last months of its life, by the insertion of a tube and force-feeding (usually grain boiled with fat).

Though some producers say it makes use of geeses’ natural tendency to over-eat at certain times of year, force-feeding is an ancient practice and generally considered necessary to achieve the prized rich consistency.

A Belgian company, Gaia, produces what it claims is a convincing vegetarian alternative, called faux gras.

The law was introduced by then state senate president John Burton, who said: “We just shouldn't be cramming a tube down a duck's throat and forcing in food to make foie gras," and that the procedure is "inhumane”.

Many American chefs have criticised the ban, saying nothing can replace the product, with its distinctive flavour and buttery consistency.

Chef Casey Lane of the Tasting Kitchen in Los Angeles told the New York Times: “It’s like having a trump card year round,” adding: “The people that build Porsches wouldn’t want their gasoline to be taken away. You’re trying to work at the top of your field.”

One New York state foie gras producer described the product as “like delicious Play-Doh” – “you can shape it into anything you want. You can sauté it, you can serve it cold, you can serve it hot, you can cook it at high heat.”

A group of chefs has formed the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (Chefs) to lobby lawmakers to repeal the ban, arguing that the feeding does not bother ducks and geese because they do not have the gag reflex human beings have.
Others are making a last-ditch attempt to sell as much as possible, such as Alexander's Steakhouse in San Francisco, which, tomorrow, will offer a $185 eight-course meal, starting with a cocktail of foie gras soaked in vodka and ending with foie-gras ice-cream.

Some restaurateurs are considering ways to get round the ban, such as offering “free” foie gras with $20 glasses of wine. However the end result of the ban is likely to be very little foie gras in the state. Its only producer has had to close down.

The ban will mostly affect American producers of the product as it is difficult for French firms to sell it in the USA due to tough import rules. The main one doing so has been a large firm with a Canadian subsidiary.

Photo: Photolib - www.fotolia.com

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