On popular food blog Megnut, Michael Ruhlman writes a thoughtful analysis of the latest foie gras flap (the second East Coast proposed food ban this week): New Jersey Assemblyman Michael Panter’s bill to ban the sale of the fatty liver in the state, set to be introduced next week. It appears that Ruhlman actually broke the news—his post ran Wednesday, while the AP story about the bill didn’t appear until yesterday. Ruhlman’s post is based on a tip phoned in by Anthony Bourdain, who followed up with this post on eGullet.
Both Bourdain and Ruhlman do a good job articulating the problems with the proposed ban. As Bourdain points out, foie gras is crucial in the kitchen, a “primary color” in a chef’s palette. And he says that New Jersey–based D’Artagnan, a small specialty-foods company that imports foie and other duck and goose products (which is owned by Ariane Daguin, whom Bourdain compares to Julia Child in her influence on the food world), would likely be put out of business by such a ban. Ruhlman has a political take:
The foie issue embodies the hypocrisy and corruption of so much of how our government operates. That our public officials continue to spend their time and our dollars on this is ludicrous. If they cared about their state and their country, they would address the catastrophe of how we’re raising agri-hogs. That’s truly inhumane. We’re trashing our land and water, growing crappy food, contaminated chicken, feed lot beef and creating lakes of sewage polluted with e coli that gets on our spinach and kills our kids.
In a post about Ruhlman’s piece, titled simply “ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!,” Accidental Hedonist wonders how New Jersey farmers, hard-hit by the spinach scare, will react to this second slap in the face.
Another N.J. legislator hopes to soften the blow by striking a compromise: Her alternate bill wouldn’t ban the sale of foie gras, but it would require producers in the state to make the liver without force-feeding. I have a feeling that’s impossible—although, according to chef Eve Felder (quoted by Ruhlman last month at Megnut), ducks naturally gorge before migrating, so perhaps they could be coaxed into fattening their own livers? Hmmm. Felder also mentions that ducks don’t have a gag reflex, so the process of force-feeding doesn’t hurt them. I’d always been pretty much on board with the animal-rights arguments against foie gras (which, admittedly, sometimes just meant that I’d have a moment of guilt before chowing down if the dish was put in front of me), but Felder’s unexpected account has made me rethink that stance.
What’s your take—is this ban an unnecessary curtailment of consumer freedom? Or should chefs find other “primary colors” and ditch the foie?