Yes, Foie Gras is Illegal in California. Again.

Sigh. Here we go again. But does anyone care?

Foie gras is once again banned from California’s menus — at least technically — after the U.S. Supreme Court took a pass on weighing in on the offal situation this week. Whether or not local chefs will comply is a whole other question.

The legal battle goes like this: In 2004, foie gras was banned in California after animal rights groups protested the practice of “gavage” or force-feeding ducks to increase the size of their livers until they double or triple in size. The ban didn’t actually go into effect until 2012, when all but a handful of vocal chefs took the product off their menus.  In 2015, the ban was overturned, making it legal again. In 2017, that decision was reversed, but would not be enforced while foie gras proponents petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court. With the recent denial by the Supreme Court to rule on the case, the 2017 ban goes back into effect. At least until another appeal.

Seared foie gras with baby kiwi and almonds at Valette in Healdsburg.
Seared foie gras with baby kiwi and almonds at Valette in Healdsburg.

But does anyone really care that much anymore? After years of verbal stone throwing between animal rights groups and chefs, the whole thing has gotten pretty convoluted and contentious. It’s also a bit of a tempest in a teapot.

Though it is hard to find many unbiased figures about how much foie gras Americans actually eat, suffice it to say we’re lightweights compared to Europeans. France, according to the Euro Foie Gras Association consumes more than 14,500 tons of the stuff annually. The Gallic consider its consumption part of their gastronomic heritage and frankly think Americans are silly for all this hubbub. Spain comes in second at 3, 240 tons, and the U.S. about 250 tons as of their 2016 figures.

Anecdotally, foie gras is a fairly rare find on local menus because of the product’s tendency to incite strong feelings. Why push it when you can surreptitiously send out a seared lobe to those on Team Foie as a “gift” and circumvent both the law and the naysayers?

It’s an ongoing battle, and one with passion on both sides. Whether you raise a glass of Sauternes to some secret foie with a nice side of pickled cherries and brioche, or you’re raising a glass of bubbly to its ban, what everyone can agree on is that the fight over foie gras isn’t over.


9 thoughts on “Yes, Foie Gras is Illegal in California. Again.

  1. Nobody really cares , this is only a symbolic law that will never be unforced. It is still available in stores and restaurants !
    It’s kind of like marijuana and illegal immigrants in California only even much less so. We know it’s illegal
    But it’s everywhere . …

  2. Every little step we move towards more humane farming is a win for the animals! What an awful and unnecessary process! All you against the ban, watch a video of the process and then decide how appetizing your foie gras actually is. #compassionovercruelty

    1. I guess that’s why the geese run up to be fed, huh? You don’t see the farmers chasing each of them down one at a time, hiding in the corners….

      1. The geese do not run up to be fed. They are force-fed with tube shoved down their throats to be overfed until their livers become much larger than normal. They are not chased. They are kept in small indoor cages so that they can be grabbed and shove the sharp tube down their throats. Chasing would mean that they actually get some form of exercise.

  3. This is what happens when you have Liberals in power. There ultimate goal is to regulate everything we do, including the food that we eat! In this case it’s geese and ducks. Can beef be far behind? These farm animals are not supposed to be pets!

    1. True, they are not supposed to be pets, but they are not supposed to be abused either.

Comments are closed.