Food

New York City Zealots Are Trying To Ban Foie Gras

A global culinary capital considers surrendering to the nanny state.

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New York City, always in the running for the title of Earth's culinary capital, appears set to relinquish its claim by banning foie gras.

The bill to ban foie gras was introduced in January by City Councilor Carlina Rivera (D), who represents parts of six Manhattan neighborhoods—the East Village, Gramercy Park, Kips Bay, Lower East Side, Murray Hill, and Rose Hill—and at least a handful of restaurants that serve foie gras.

"No person, or any agent thereof, shall sell or offer for sale, or in any foodservice establishment provide or offer to provide by sale or any other manner, any force-fed product," Rivera's killjoy bill orders. Violators could face steep fines and up to a year in jail for violating the ban.

Rivera told the New York Post in February that she introduced the proposed ban because, the paper reports, "the foie gras production process is 'egregious' and has been wrongly 'tolerated' for 'far too long' in the Big Apple." Rivera told the Post last month that foie gas is "a luxury product that we don't need in New York City."

Unfortunately, many of Rivera's colleagues on the city council appear to agree with her. Crain's last month reported at least twenty of New York City's 51 city councilors have signed on to co-sponsor the ban. That number now stands at 28, which would give the ban the majority it needs to become law.

A city council committee debated the bill last month. There's no word yet on when—or even if—the full council will vote on the ban. Meanwhile, the Post reported last month that neither New York City Mayor (and soon-to-be-former presidential candidate) Bill de Blasio nor City Council President Corey Johnson has taken a stand on the proposed ban.

The Robb Report noted last month that many New York City chefs oppose the bill.

"We're both opposed to the ban," said Arjuna Bull, who plans to open a restaurant in New York City's East Village this summer with fellow chef Nahid Ahmed. "It's quite an exquisite ingredient. We love to eat it, we love to work with it. It's so versatile. All the chefs we know are opposed to [the ban]."

Last decade, Chicago lawmakers passed a foolhardy and short-lived foie gras ban. California's statewide foie gras ban, which is the subject of a court challenge in which I've played a role, took effect in 2012.

The loss of foie gras in New York City, coupled with California's ban, would make it illegal to sell foie gras in—depending on the source of your rankings—anywhere from four of the top 10 to six of the top 15 food destinations in America.

That's likely by design. Killing off foie gras in America begins and ends with banning it in California and New York.

A foie gras ban would have been inconceivable to many in New York even a decade ago.

Eleven years ago, I attended the "Duckathlon," a strange and wonderful competition for chefs that took place in and around Chelsea Market in lower Manhattan. The raucous event—held a short walk from Rivera's Manhattan district—was sponsored by D'Artagnan, the country's top purveyor of foie gras.

In a subsequent piece for Reason, I discussed how New York City's unique place in America's culinary hierarchy was increasingly in jeopardy. "There is probably no better place in America to hold an event celebrating and defending haute cuisine—and the chefs who cook it—than in New York City," I wrote. But I also noted that the city that's home to many of the best restaurants in the country had also become a burgeoning food nanny state.

Others I spoke with at the Duckathlon disagreed with that assessment—at least as it pertained to haute cuisine.

"I don't think, in its upper reaches, New York City is a food nanny state at all," the late food writer Josh Ozersky told me. Ozersky, like foie gras' greatest American promoter and defender, fellow New Yorker Anthony Bourdain, is dead. Their energy and leadership are sorely missed today.

I spoke this week with staffers (and even a customer, a foie gras-loving comedy actor from Los Angeles) at one restaurant that serves foie gras and is located in Councilor Rivera's district. They told me they were entirely unaware of both Rivera and her proposed ban.

That's worrisome. Unless opposition to the ban crystallizes and chefs unite to push back against it, foie gras could soon be no more in New York City. But the impact of these bans extends far beyond foie gras—a point I made here last year.

"Banning foie gras ducks would not only dramatically impact those producing it today, but logically could lead to banning all domestic poultry," D'Artagnan founder and CEO Ariane Daguin wrote in an email to me this week. "We believe there is risk of a much larger industry precedent being set here, one that ultimately could affect our daily meals."

The Wall Street Journal's Anne Kadet, who doesn't eat foie gras, toured the Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm in Upstate New York recently at the invitation of the farm's owners. The tour, she writes, didn't convince her to become a foie gras eater. Neither, though, did it make her a supporter of New York City's proposed ban.

"I'm personally opposed to the ban because it unfairly singles out a small segment of the meat/poultry industry that is an easy target," Kadet told me this week in an email.

Kadet's principled opposition to banning a food she doesn't eat is music to my ears. Hers is also a mindset I hope New York City lawmakers can both understand and embrace.

NEXT: Impending Defeat for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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  1. Nobody needs 23 different kinds of luxury ingredients.

  2. So, cities can ban any legal product they don’t like? Straws, cups, bottles .Where does it end? I thought the commerce clause was added to keep commerce regular.? So states couldn’t pull this crap. I dream, I dream.

    1. Well, once the city bans the product it’s no longer legal, is it? Once it’s illegal, who the hell is going to argue that it should be legal to deal in illegal products? Bad things are illegal for a reason, it’s because illegal things are bad.

    2. Commerce clause is across state lines. This is internal.

      1. HA HA HA HA HA

        Tell that to Roscoe Filburn.

        HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

        1. Yes, I agree filburn was a bad decision. Just because it was a bad decision doesnt me we should continue to support it.

      2. You do know all these products come from out of state also? Your point is moot.

        1. Also. They also are produced intrastate.

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  4. The best way to handle this if it passes, restaurants put up posters of the councilasses that vote for this and refuse them service if they show up.

  5. I wonder how long it would take Beyond Meat to make its own foie gras?

    1. Dunno, but if it’s anything like their ‘ground beef’, only a vegan would confuse it with the real thing.

      1. A vegan would have to EAT the real thing to compare it.

        Oh wait …. that wouldn’t stop any true statist.

  6. So many bad governmental policies begin in California and then spread like a virus to other places. All you living under a Democrat run government can look toward California for a glimpse of your future.

  7. I respect those who favor foie gras production and also believe stray dogs and cats may be shot where they stand (much as flies are swatted and pigs prepared for the table), and that horsemeat and dogmeat should be sold in markets.

    I respect those who oppose foie gras production, favor no-kill shelters, and boycott fur shops.

    I do not respect arguments for foie gras from those who favor special protections for dogs, cats, horses, and the like.

    1. One of your better efforts, Rev.

    2. “and that horsemeat and dogmeat should be sold in markets.”

      How much dog meat have you eaten? I’ve eaten only a little and nothing since I discovered that the dogs are beaten and bruised with baseball bats before butchering to improve the quality of the taste of the meat. I see the attraction of eating something that tastes delicious, but it seems frivolous considering the gratuitous suffering the poor creatures are subjected to.

      1. I have not eaten dog meat (at least, not so far as I am aware).

        Is a dog alive when pounded (or are they handled much like, it sounds, a chicken breast prepared for a Marsala dish or beef prepared for braciole)?

        In any event, the descriptions of foie gras production I have encountered suggest that the issues related to foie gras resemble those you evoke with respect to dogs.

        1. No they’re alive and tortured, as he said.

          REVEREND IMPLODING!!!

          (AHAHAHAH I LOVE LAUGHING AT YOU FOR THAT)

        2. “Is a dog alive when pounded”

          Of course it’s alive. The best way to prepare a dog i am familiar with is to hang it upside down and beat it to death, blow torch the fur off it and then butcher. And you probably would know if you were eating dog. It’s more expensive than other meats and restaurants aren’t likely to try to palm it off as a cheaper meat, like beef.

          1. If the dogs are abused while alive, that resembles the treatment of ducks with respect to foie gras, with the relative merits of short- and long-term abuse positioned for discussion.

            One might expect fans of dog meat — if informed consumers — to prefer that the dogs be killed before processing, along the line most Americans understand to be the practice with respect to poultry, beef, and pork.

  8. “…any force-fed product”

    An important distinction there. Fowl raised for foie gras in some farms are force fed food (multiple times the normal daily amount) to enlarge the liver to abnormal sizes giving the farmer more to sell more quickly. Does the bill ban non force fed foie gras?

    1. Doesn’t appear to. And how can anyone enforcing the law tell the difference?

    2. “No person, or any agent thereof, shall sell or offer for sale, or in any foodservice establishment provide or offer to provide by sale or any other manner, any force-fed product,”

      “including, but not limited to, force-fed wafer-thin mints.”

  9. foie gas is “a luxury product that we don’t need in New York City.”

    Aren’t luxury items sort of by definition not needed?

    1. Oh, a wise guy, eh?

  10. I don’t quite understand why anti-elitism affects so much animal rights activism. Throwing paint on fur coats while ignoring leather shoes, etc.

    Egg production is more cruel to chickens than foie gras production is to ducks as long as the farm is doing best practices. Cows are not especially pleased to be genetically engineered monster that can barely stand.

    Ducks don’t eat, digest, or breathe like humans. Gorging is natural for them as a migratory species, and they don’t have a gag reflex because they swallow without chewing. They are not being suffocated during gavage. The horror videos come from the worst farms, courtesy of PETA.

    Just make sure farms meet minimum standards. Foie gras is one of my favorite things in life, but if it could only exist via truly savage treatment of a pain-feeling animal, I’d give it a thought. But that’s just not true. PETA lies and doesn’t apply its principles consistently.

    1. “I don’t quite understand why anti-elitism affects so much animal rights activism. Throwing paint on fur coats while ignoring leather shoes, etc.”

      I don’t think it’s so difficult to understand. The people who buy and wear fur coats are often more interested in displaying status, thus making them a fine target for activists. Leather shoes are not a status symbol, but vegans shun them nevertheless. A famous vegan actor raised a ruckus on the Gladiator set, insisting that his sandals were vegan friendly. It was Joaquin Phoenix.

    2. Egg production is more cruel to chickens than foie gras production is to ducks as long as the farm is doing best practices.

      What about free range chickens? And I know they cull male chicks, but I think it’s done in a quick and painless way.

      1. I’d clarify by saying the standard practices in egg production is crueler to chickens than the standard practices in foie gras production is to ducks. Free-range is best practice for chickens, although the definition of “free-range” can get a bit cute.

        1. It means they’re allowed to roam around “outside” (usually some kind of enclosed space obviously) for at least so many hours per day (6 hours for HFAC certification) and have so many square feet of space per chicken (2 st ft for HFAC). From what I’ve seen it’s not bad at all and the chickens seem to like it. I’m willing to spend the extra buck per dozen for them. Not sure if there’s any difference in the quality of the eggs, but it does seem like the shells are thicker. I’m not willing to pay double for “pasture raised” which means all day outside (weather permitting) and 108 sq ft per chicken. I tried them and I could detect no difference in egg quality. I don’t even know if the chickens give a damn if they’re free range or pasture raised. The main thing that makes a huge difference in egg quality is obviously their diet and they pretty much all get fed the same stuff.

          1. Yeah, I’ve never found a discernible difference between supermarket eggs. The ones I used to get from a friend who raised chickens in her back yard were so far superior that it’s like a drug I never got over. I wish I was still in touch with her.

        2. Fuck off Esmeralda.

    3. Since you live in an agricultural region, I’ll take you at your word.

  11. “Facebook is adding the “Facebook” brand name to Instagram and WhatsApp–so that it will be branded as “Instagram from Facebook” and “WhatsApp from Facebook”.

    I don’t see that this has any purpose other than to attempt to resist antitrust regulators who might try breaking the company apart in the future. I suspect Facebook believes that the more users come to identify Facebook’s parts as integral to their use of Facebook, the more regulators will dread angering users of WhatsApp and Instagram.

    Apart from a fine, breaking Instagram off of Facebook to compete with Facebook is seen as one of the most likely antitrust remedies available. WhatApp isn’t much of a revenue generator, but plenty of people think letting Facebook acquire WhatsApp was a mistake, too.

    I am not familiar with how Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp work together–for obvious reasons–but I assume they share “friends”, right? Regardless, if Instagram were stripped off of Facebook, that would mean nothing if Instagram friends and Facebook friends were still mutually accessible to each other–but still walled off from other competing social media services.

    Imagine if T-Mobile service was such that customers could only call other people on a T-Mobile plan and could only receive calls from other people on a T-Mobile plan. If the government came after T-Mobile on an antitrust basis and made them sell off some of their services (say text and email, for example), what difference would splitting them up make afterwards if people on those three “competing” services could still only call, text, or email other people on those three services–and you had to be on those services to call, text, or email anyone on the service, too?

  12. Foie Gras.

    What is this? Chopped liver?

  13. “City Councilor Carlina Rivera (D)…”

    Democrats. Feh.

  14. I wonder who the restaurant owners in Rivera‘s district voted for in the last council election? I wonder if they even considered for a second voting for a candidate from a political party other than Democrat.

    You really do get what you pay for, don’t you?

    1. You really need to read the Wikipedia entry for this AOC clone.

    2. Perhaps they weren’t in the market for bigotry?

      1. But they got it anyway

        1. The day a white supremacist hick shoots dozens in a Walmart (after a week of bigoted Trmp tweets) is a bad day for right-wingers to trot out their ‘Democrats are the real racists’ line.

          Carry on, clingers. Until you are replaced.

  15. thanks for providing the information

  16. So, if I have a large liver, from a larger-than-average duck or goose, which was not force-fed, do I have to prove it wasn’t actually a from a force-fed goose?

    (Note: I wouldn’t touch foie gras with a ten-foot pole (being vegan), but I feel very strongly that government shouldn’t dictate what people are allowed to eat. Pretty simple, really.)

    1. Wouldn’t a normal (not enlarged by force feeding) liver have a lower fat content, or some such difference that would make it not taste like like “foie gras”? I don’t really know, I’ve never tasted the stuff, but I thought I had heard that. Anyway, the phrase “any force-fed product” seems kind of vague, and likely to lead to litigation over what is or is not a force-fed product.

      1. Yes, has a very high fat content. Up to 80% or something, as I recall, compared to less than 10% of a non-fatty liver. Alcohol can also cause “fatty liver”, a least in humans. I guess one COULD test for fat content of the product. Next on the agenda? Test all livers offered for sale for fat content! We will deal with gizzards and hearts later….

  17. Probably a non-issue because the vast majority of Republican and Democrat voters have no interest in eating foie gras (no matter how sophisticated the Rev. thinks the Dem voters are.) Try banning NASCAR, the NFL or NBA and you might see a revolution.

    1. Baby steps. You don’t start by banning the things everybody loves, you start with the marginal items and work your way up. You have to lay the foundation by establishing the principle that The People’s Representatives have the right to ban the UnGood things, then you gradually expand the definition of UnGood things. Today it’s plastic straws and hate speech and foie gras, tomorrow it’s petrochemicals and problematic speech and sugar, next week it’s electricity and the written word and anything but Soylent Green.

      1. Correct. You have been paying attention.
        First just ban cheap saturday night specials, which only crooks use.
        Then just ban expensive handguns, which only crooks use ’cause civilians can’t afford them’.
        Then just ban high power ammunition by calling them ‘cop killer bullets’.
        Then just ban scary looking rifles for no reason at all.
        And at no time do you ever, ever, admit the constitution prohibits any of these infringements.
        Later on, you can move into speech bans, and no one will even notice.
        After that, any food group you can fund a federal study to call dangerous, or ‘contributing to high health costs’. Or in this case being mean to food animals.

      2. ^^ gets it

  18. So, what does NYC Councilwoman liver taste like?

    1. Fava beans on the side and a nice chianti?

  19. Quite the contretemps down El Paso way, today. Now I understand why conservatives are anti-abortion. It’s no fun for you if you can’t hear them scream, no?

    1. Are you just bathing in violence to use it against conservatives? Wipe the smile off your face.

      1. I’m not smiling. Unlike conservatives, I take no pleasure in the misery of others.

        1. Another one.

  20. A global culinary capital considers surrendering to the nanny state.

    CONSIDERS????

  21. As long as they don’t ban goose liver pate’ I am okay with it! (sarc)

  22. Only a New Yorker could imagine that New York is the culinary capital of the world.

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  25. I never got the love foie gras gets. I remember celebrating Christmas in Paris with my cousins years ago and they cracked up a can or two of the stuff and just about had an orgasm.

    I tried some and quietly gagged while drowning it in wine and bread.

    That being said, it’s sad they want to ban it. I don’t think there’s ground for an outright ban because a) people enjoy it and is a part of French cuisine and b) it won’t stop there.

    Think the anti-science driving plastic straws.

    Foie gras today…..(what) tomorrow?

    1. It seems to be an acquired taste for some. It’s worth acquiring, while you still can.

      1. Pass.

  26. Unlike the “Nanny State” that you are advocating for where “the will of the people” is trampled on and ignored by those wanting to, and those playing fartcatcher for, profit from state sanctioned and imposed animal cruelty.

    If a majority of voters in NYC want to elect those who show a little concern for animals’ rights – that is their business.

    But good to see “principled Conservatives” demanding “Big Gubment Socialism” when it comes to protecting the profits from animal cruelty.

    The score on this front in the Culture War, if Conservatives are successful in overturning the will of the people on this issue, will be:

    Socialism: 1
    Principled Conservatism: 0

  27. The reason (most) slavers support these bans is because they’re popular enough to believe the ban is a question of morality and not the inherent mechanism of “banning things I don’t like.” A foie gras ban may seem insignificant, but would these same people support a meat ban? Or a non-vegan food ban? Or an abortion ban?

    1. Or a coffee ban?

      After all, in California they put labels warning it can lead to cancer.

      1. Now I’m imagining a world where coffee isn’t legal but recreational drugs are.

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