Since news broke out about Foie Gras being back on the menu in California, my whole newsfeed has been bombarded with opinions about it from both ends.
‘Yay! Foie Gras! I’m a ‘foodie’, feed me!’
‘No! Foie Gras! Gross and barbaric, don’t support it!’
Let me preface this by saying the following:
If you’re a vegetarian, pescatarian, or vegan, this post isn’t for you.
If you own a farm, grow your own vegetables, keep your animals happy, give them their last rites before the butchering, this post isn’t for you.
If you primarily shop and consume organically and humanely raised meat, this post isn’t directed at you.
If you’re like the majority of America who eats fast food, orders take-out, goes out to dinner, shops at major grocery stores and consumes conventionally-raised meat, and chose to share THIS POST (“If you eat foie gras, you’re an asshole”), continue reading because this is for you.
Imagine a typical day.
You wake up in the morning and have the biggest hankering for a bacon, egg, and cheese after a rager/Netflix binge. You go to the bodega on your way to work and order a breakfast sandwich with a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. How much did that cost? $8 max, maybe?
For lunch, everyone at work starts stirring and talking about what they want to collectively order. Dim sum? Sushi? Maybe some General Tso’s? No, maybe a salad with grilled chicken breast with the dressing on the side. $12? Not bad.
After work, you decide to go out for drinks with friends. At the bar, you decide to munch on something. A burger? Mozzarella sticks? Chicken fingers to share, maybe? Who knows how much that adds up to if you eat at the bar and share.
Or maybe you didn’t go out for drinks. Maybe you went to the grocery store the other day and you’re marinating some chicken in the fridge to make some chicken cutlet? Or maybe you just want to go home and curl up to a bowl of pasta with lost of gooey cheese? Definitely a lot cheaper than the long bar tab above.
All throughout this, sometime that day you come across an online article about foie gras and all the pretentious assholes who consume it. What douchebags! What kind of insensitive asshole would eat duck or goose liver knowing full well that these animals are being FORCE FED, FATTENED, and ABUSED?! What kind of uncaring being on this planet would tolerate and support this kind of unnecessary practice?! Moreover, why would anybody pay THAT MUCH MONEY for liver?!
You’re fuming. You’re abhorred. The whole thing is an affront to your delicate sensibilities so you decided to click on the article and hit the Share Button. Because you are a responsible human being and people need to know the truth!
Well, let’s step back for a second.
A bacon, egg and cheese costs about $3.25.
That’s conventionally-raised pig, non cage-free chicken, and a cow that’s been kept in a pen with tubes attached to its otters, literally milking it for all it’s worth.
A salad with plain grilled chicken breast costs about $12.50.
That’s a chicken fattened up beyond its physical capabilities, its breast engorged to twice its normal size, and crammed in tight quarters.
Bacon burger? Mozzarella sticks? Chicken fingers?
Pigs, cows, chickens – all conventionally raised meaning more animals, less space, more food, less care, and the only thing that really matters is the bottom line. I mean, food is so (relatively) cheap that the breakfast, lunch, and dinner I listed above won’t cost you more than $50/$70 depending on where you are.
This is not new information. We all know this. We have all seen the PETA videos, the horrid images, the documentaries. And yet here we all are – eating food from these farms while simultaneously crucifying those who dare to eat the worst of the worst: the heinous foie gras.
But what do we know about it?
Months ago I read this really helpful article about foie gras production by J Kenji Lopez-Alt. He visited La Belle Farms located in Sullivan County, New York and wrote about what he saw in Serious Eats. You can click the link and read more about it but in a nutshell, this is what I gathered:
1. Geese live the first 12 weeks of their lives in a stress-free, spacious environment. Their last 25 days are spent feeding. If you love eating chicken wings from Hooters yet criticize people who eat foie gras, you, Sir, are a hypocrite of the highest honor. The geese that produce beautiful foie gras live better lives than the chickens that died for your bucket of KFC or those 10-Cent wings you get at your local bar on Wednesdays. Additionally, theoretically speaking, 10 chickens died for your 20 piece order of buffalo wings while a lobe of foie gras from one goose is more than enough for two people.
2. Are they being force-fed? Yes and no. Yes, a plastic tube is being inserted into their throats and a specific amount of feed is pushed through. Is this any more inhumane than feeding chickens until their legs break from their own weight? If there is still remnants from the last feeding, the person will skip that goose until the next one. No, they are not gagging; this is how these animals are built to eat. People chew their food, snakes swallow their entire prey, hamsters shove food into their face until bloated. Crucifying this as inhumane while eating Perdue chicken breasts, Oscar Meyer bacon, & Stop & Shop burgers is laughable.
3. Are they treated well? Yes they are. At the heart of it, the success of a good foie gras facility really depends on its animals treatment. The people who work with these geese CANNOT manhandle them. If you manhandle them, you get bruises on the liver. If you have bruises on the liver, it degrades the value. These workers get a commission based on the quality of the livers that they care for. That is incentive to treat the animals better. This is why it’s so expensive – the worker who feeds the geese have LITERALLY touched and fed EVERY SINGLE animal until its untimely death. Can you say the same thing about the treatment of chickens in conventional facilities? Pigs? Cows?
Listen. I get it. Foie gras has a bad reputation thus making it easier to crucify. Like I said, if you eat cage-free eggs, free-range organic chicken, grass-fed & humanely raised beef, and sustainably sourced dairy, maybe you have every right to be abhorred.
However, if everything you consume is a product of conventional farming and food production, shut up about my foie gras and I’ll shut up about your chicken wings, cheeseburger & fries.