Foie Gras Connoisseurs Have 90 Days Remaining to Buy in California

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With the foie gras ban just around the corner, restaurants, retail specialty food stores and individual consumers have only 90 days left to purchase foie gras in the state of California, reports Mirepoix USA, a leading online foie gras retailer, formerly based in California.

Foie Gras Ice Cream with Seared Foie Gras

Foie Gras Ice Cream with Seared Foie Gras

Rick Bishop, Marketing Director for New York based Hudson Valley Foie Gras, states his company “has been very progressive in meeting the demands of the soon-to-be enforced law”.

July 1, 2012 is the date on which the production and sale of foie gras will no longer be legal in California. California State Senate Bill No. 1520 (SB 1520), referred to as the “California foie gras ban,” prohibits force feeding birds and the sale of any product “if it is the result of force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size.”

SB 1520 was introduced by Democratic California State Senator John Burton on February 19, 2004, and was swiftly approved by the Assembly and Senate and signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on September 29, 2004. Nearly eight years later, the ban will be enforced beginning July 1, 2012, preventing foie gras connoisseurs from freely enjoying the popular delicacy in the state of California.

Organizations in opposition of SB 1520 have attempted to overturn the bill, challenging its legal basis on grounds that the bill interferes with interstate commerce. US based foie gras producer, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, has been working towards defining acceptable California foie gras production standards, hoping that by complying with strict guidelines for humane production of foie gras, the company would be allowed to continue distribution of their product in California. As of now, it appears the ban will be enforced.

Supporters of the California foie gras ban contend that the methods used for producing duck and goose foie gras, specifically the process of “gavage” (the French word for force feeding), is inhumane and constitutes cruelty to animals. Conversely, producers and consumers of foie gras argue that ducks and geese do not have a gag reflex, are accustomed to swallowing whole fish, and naturally consume large amounts of food prior to migration.

According to online foie gras retailer, Laurel Pine, founder of Mirepoix USA’s website, SB 1520 has the potential for far-reaching impact. According to Pine, the text of the law, though it specifically targets the production and sale of foie gras in the state of California, could easily be used as a springboard to introduce legislation aimed at dismantling the farming of other animals. Lobbyists for animal rights activist groups such as Farm Sanctuary and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), organizations which openly promote vegetarianism and veganism, were instrumental in influencing Burton to sponsor SB 1520.

Beginning July 1, 2012, SB 1520 authorizes police officers to issue citations of up to $1000 per violation per day. California restaurants will be forced to remove foie gras dishes from their menus, or risk getting fined. California based, Sonoma Foie Gras, will need to shut down operations and move their farm to another state. Online foie gras retailer, Mirepoix USA, formerly based in California, is now operating from Reno, Nevada in order to comply with the new legislation.

Rick Bishop, Marketing Director for New York based Hudson Valley Foie Gras, states his company “has been very progressive in meeting the demands of the soon-to-be enforced law”. Hudson Valley Foie Gras has modified their farming techniques, shortened gavage times, and is now a certified cage free producer. Additionally, Hudson Valley is using a third party animal welfare auditor and has implemented worker-training programs in order to successfully implement their new procedures.

For the next ninety days, prior to the July 1st deadline, there will be more opportunities than ever to enjoy foie gras in California. Bay area and LA based restaurants are offering five and six course all foie gras dinner menus featuring seared foie gras, pate de foie gras, torchon of foie gras and even desserts made of the famous duck liver. CHEFS (Coalition for Humane & Ethical Farming Standards), lead by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA), is organizing a series of events to raise public awareness and garner support for continued availability of foie gras in California.

Based on feedback from Mirepoix USA’s California retail clients, it is unlikely that foie gras connoisseurs will refrain from eating foie gras even when the ban is in force. Whether the product is purchased in France and brought back to California, purchased in another state, or stockpiled prior to the July 1, 2012 deadline, foie gras will remain on dinner plates and special occasion menus despite the new legislation.

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Laurel Pine
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