Foie gras ban ‘bad idea’ says US chef

Award-winning US chef Dan Barber said Tuesday that California's ban on French speciality foie gras was a "bad idea" that would have no effect on improving food sustainability.

Foie gras ban 'bad idea' says US chef
Photo: John Morgan

A well-known campaigner for sustainable foods, Barber said during a visit to Paris that the ban was a distraction from real efforts needed to improve eating habits.

"It's a bad idea that is not going to do anything," he said.

"We are talking about a whole food system that is really in trouble. To talk about foie gras is a detail, it looks more like a commercial decision," Barber said.

The 43-year-old, named outstanding US chef in 2009 by the James Beard Foundation, owns several restaurants including Blue Hill in Manhattan and is a member of the US presidential Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

He added however that he does not serve foie gras on his menu as he has been unable to find enough produced without force-feeding.

California banned foie gras — fatty liver made by force-feeding ducks or geese with grain — on July 1st in a move hailed by animal-rights activists but denounced by the industry in France as a violation of international trade rules.

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Ban ‘barbaric’ French foie gras, Danish politicians urge EU

Danish left-wing party SF (Socialist People’s Party) wants a debate on whether it should be legal to produce and sell French delicacy foie gras in the EU.

Ban 'barbaric' French foie gras, Danish politicians urge EU
File photo: Benoit Tessier / Reuters / Ritzau Scanpix

The party, a parliamentary ally of the governing Social Democrats, wants foie gras banned in the European Union and has called its production “barbaric”.

“It is one of the most barbaric ways food can be produced. These birds are treated very badly, and we don’t think it’s okay,” SF spokesperson on food Carl Valentin said.

“Danes have actually already morally rejected this to a large extent. Consumption is falling fast [in Denmark, ed.] and production is already illegal in Denmark. That’s why we’re focusing on this issue,” Valentin continued.

Discussion of the matter by politicians follows a decision by management at Torvehallerne, an upscale food market in Copenhagen, to recommend its concession holders not to sell the French dish, a paté made from the livers of geese or ducks.

Torvehallerne made the decision after customers posted complaints on its Facebook page over the sale of foie gras at Ma Poule, a stand at the market which sells French specialities.

Although production of the delicacy is banned in Denmark, importing it is not, as such a ban is prevented by European Single Market laws.

Foie gras production involves overfeeding geese and duck for the last two weeks before they are slaughtered. This causes them to develop fatty liver disease, with the organ expanding to six to ten times its normal size, according to Danish animal welfare charity Dyrenes Beskyttelse.

90 percent of foie gras now comes from geese, rather than duck, which was previously the preferred bird, according to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA). Although the majority of production is in France, the foodstuff is also made in Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

EU rules do forbid foie gras from being produced in places where it has not previously been made, according to the DVFA website.

Valentin said he wanted the union to outlaw what he termed a “dish for the upper classes”.

“The reason I mention the upper class is that this is very much a dish for the upper classes. I think it’s sad that there’s so little focus on animal welfare and more thought goes to pleasing taste buds than protecting animals,” the SF spokesperson said.

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