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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

THE GREAT FOIE GRAS CONTROVERSY

Gastronomists love foie gras, pronounced fwa gwa.  I belong to Chaine des Rotisseurs, and every major dinner has featured goose liver, but sometime the much cheaper duck liver.  Mind you, I hate...despise, avoid all other kinds of liver, but foie gras is almost heavenly.  

Do I feel guilty?  Well, yes.  But life is full of contradictions.  In my quest to save Planet Earth and Humanity I travel a lot, so my carbon footprint is atrociously high.  If we can tolerate the outright butchering of animals and without much remorse eat steak, chicken salad and the like, it seems morally pretentious to carp on the feeding process for a bird people consume anyway.

Organizations such as the Humane Society, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and similar organizations throughout the world have filed suit contending that force-feeding pellets of corn to these fowl is cruel and inhumane.  A few producers have argued that their geese and ducks come to get fed and they do it gently and humanely, with the feeding only lasting for 3 seconds.

Here is the global status:

  • Blue:  Production banned.
  • Red:  Main production countries.
  • Argentina:  production is illegal.
  • Europe:  five producing countries, but importation okay anywhere.
  • India:  illegal to import.
  • Israel:  mixed, but laws not enforced.
  • California:  On 7 January 2015 judge reversed the ban, citing that this was a federal responsibility.
  • Chicago:  Mayor Richard Daley thought the issue was silly, so the City Council in 2008 overturned a 2-year ban.
  • San Diego:  85% favor a ban, but unclear what is the true status of any ban.
The Gascony region of France produces 80% of the world foie gras supply.  Only 1.4% is produced in the U.S., with New York the most prominent. 

There is another reason to avoid foie gras:  health.  It is reported that foie gras should not be consumed by those who have Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and any amyloid-related disease.  Yet, while the Gascony residents had a diet heavy in saturated fat, there was a lower rate of heart disease.  The conclusion was that foie must have been the reason.  In any case, almost anything in moderation cannot really hurt that much.  I know I consume less than a pound a year of this controversial delicacy.

Which leads to cost.  You can order from Amazon a wide variety of foie gras for between $50 and $100 per pound.  This 1/3 pound tin of goose liver block with truffles cost $35.  I've paid more than $50/pound for chu-toro, a fatty blue fin tuna, and see in Japanese markets wagyu beef for $250/pound, so foie gras is not outrageous in cost.  White truffles from Italy, incidentally, that other epicurean treat, can be had for $168-$658/ounce, or up to $10,528/pound, and it doesn't look all that appetizing.  This 2.86 pound white truffle was purchased by Stanley Ho of Hong Kong for $417,200, or $146,000/pound:


For the record, that is Angela Leong, Ho's fourth wife.

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