Eduardo Sousa, a farmer in the Extremadura region of Spain is, according to chef Dan Barber, raising geese that bear the best foie gras the chef’s tasted.  The critical part of the story, though, is that Sousa does not force feed the geese.  He apparently lets their inclination to gorge themselves, once required for migration, take care of the fattening and simply makes sure they have all they want—nuts, olives, etc., but no corn.  This suggests of course that farmers who force feed their geese and ducks are simply controlling what the ducks would do naturally and that the folks who want to prohibit the production and sale of foie gras on the grounds of animal cruelty have one less leg to stand on.
    I never thought they had any leg to stand on if they argued only that the practice of gavage were inhumane but were happy to buy boneless skinless chicken breast and beef tenderloin from America’s meat factories.  The foie gras farms in the United States, notably Hudson Valley Foie Gras, tend to be models of humane, safe, small-scale farming. Here’s Bourdain’s excellent account of the no rez trip to the farm.
    But Barber’s story (first reported last week in Lancaster Farming and which I read via A Hunger Artist), is a good one nevertheless.  Barber said this foie gras was the best he’d ever eaten and that the experience was revelatory, “the best culinary experience of my life.”  Repeat: the best culinary experience of his life.  Are we likely to taste any of this at Blue Hill anytime soon?  Not likely.  When Barber asked about buying Sousa’s foie gras, Sousa, clearly a quirky farmer, replied, “Chef’s don’t deserve it.”
    So enough with chefs banning foie from their meat-filled menus (clearly a marketing-driven decision, at best–and nothing wrong with that, but let’s call it what it is), and enough with city counsel grandstanding and the like to legislate its ban (most recently defeated in Maryland).  And thanks Dan Barber for another great story.

(Skawt’s comment reminded me of this hilarious exercise in human discomfort and stupidity. thanks again to delgrosso.)

UPDATE: credit due
Dan Barber’s story was a originally part of broader talk last month at NYU’s Experimental Cuisine Collective on the connection between flavor and animal welfare, namely the idea that the better an animal is treated during its life and the less stress it endures at slaughter, the better the flavor it will have, a common sensical idea that may be impossible to prove.  The Sousa story was one of his examples.  Katherine Hobson wrote about Barber’s talk in a US News & World Report blog and Joseph Erdos wrote about it on his blog.

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72 Wonderful responses to “Best Foie Gras Ever?”

  • milo

    The obvious question this raises is, if it’s possible to get foie gras without force feeding, then why force feed? While this is interesting, I don’t really buy that this somehow means that force feeding isn’t cruel.

    If the animal rights people really want to stop this particular case of animal cruelty, they should go after the ones force feeding instead of trying to ban ALL foie gras. But then again, it seems that many of the hardcore animal rights people are vegetarian and oppose raising animals for meat at all, and this is a small enough step that they may have some success banning it in some places (like here in Chicago, although it seems like it’s only fitfully enforced).

  • Ryan

    Yes, because folk against force-feeding geese MUST be buying boneless, skinless meats. Hypocrites!. Mmm, can you taste that deeelicious straw man?

  • Berry

    Last season on “The F-Word” Gordon Ramsay sent Janet Street-Porter to Sousa’s farm; she brought back some foie gras and Ramsay said he’d make all his restaurants switch if it was better, but after doing a side by side taste test decided the “traditional” foie was better.

  • claudia

    you can’t see me through your monitor but i am standing (figuritively, of course) and wildly applauding this post.

    the factory farming of cows, pigs and chickens… it is happening everywhere – the supermarket/fast food meat is the vast majority of what is presented to nearly all our country every day and the horrors of how these animals are raised is beyond anything anyone wants to consider…

  • milo

    Of course factory farming is bad.

    But what does that have to do with foie gras production?

    Seems like even bringing that up is clouding the issue.

  • Devan

    First, like milo, I don’t buy the argument that the natural gorging behaviors of these birds makes force-feeding them somehow less cruel, per your “one less leg to stand on” paragraph.

    Like the birds, I sometimes eat in alarmingly large amounts. But if you tried to keep me in a small cage, stick a tube down my throat, and pump my esophagus full of food, I would resent it, to say the least.

    In other words, the question is not as simple as a “yes or no” to a certain behavior; it’s about volition and mechanics as they relate to that behavior. It’s surprising to see a post here that doesn’t take this issue into account with the complexity it seems so obviously to deserve.

    Second, there are of course many people who, like me, oppose force-feeding AND refuse to buy factory-farmed meat. Some of these people are vegetarians; others simply buy humanely treated meat—a fluid standard, I know, but at least it’s an effort.

    Ryan nailed it when he called your attack of those who are less consistent in their actions a straw man.

    Third, it strikes me as beyond cynical to call the decision to pull fois gras from menus “marketing-driven.” Surely some chefs consider the plights of the animals they cook and serve, right?

    My best evidence for this is the widespread debate over how to kill a lobster. For example, Ripert says: Do so with a stroke of the knife rather than in boiling water. Why? It’s more humane. Is Ripert desperate enough for customers that he has to change the way he kills lobster for marketing purposes? I doubt it.

    My point: Chefs can and do care about humane treatment of the animals that become food, at least in some cases, and probably in this one too. For someone that has regularly posted links to Cosentino’s blog, to assume the contrary about fois gras seems a bit of a blind spot.

    Finally, your suggestion that attempts to legislate bans on force-feeding constitute grandstanding—to an extent more than politics-as-usual, I take you to mean—seems a bit behind the times.

    After all, it’s not just “city counsel” that’s getting on the train; the list of banners includes the U.K. and the Pope. In other words, the movement has a little more traction than you seem to suggest, whatever might be happening in Maryland (and, to be fair, California, Philly, Chicago…).

  • milo

    Devan, nice post.

    One thing I’d like to clarify – Chicago hasn’t banned “force feeding”, they have banned foie gras completely, regardless of whether it’s raised humanely or not. Which seems misguided to me since it punishes people doing it humanely along with the others instead of providing incentive to switch to humane producers.

  • Devan

    Thanks for the clarification, milo. I quite agree with you on Chicago’s position. It seems counterproductive, and unfair to those who produce fois gras more humanely.

  • Andrew

    Let me say it to you again until you understand it. People are not birds and birds are not people. I would not enjoy having a tube stuck down my throat and having food sent down it. I would also not enjoy floating in freezing cold water and pulling algae of the bottom of lake bottom.

    Just because something would be a hardship for humans does not mean it is a hardship for a particular animal.

    I would find it inhumane to be forced to clean my entire body using only my tongue, but my cat is fine with that. He is evolved to clean himself that way. Migratory birds are evolved to overeat and store fat in their liver for long journeys. As this story points out, left to their own devices the animals will force feed themselves whenever possible.

    All the foie gras produced in this country is done on a scale that and with methods that would be considered excellent for any other animal. They are small, well cared for, not pumped full of drugs, and given ample space and care. There has never been a sane argument against it with any scientific validity. The only attacks rely on anthropomorphism, which is simply insane.

    Make no mistake the people who are banning foie gras see this as a first step to banning all meat. They know that since joe sixpack is never going to eat the stuff, it’s low hanging fruit. It’s elitist, and French. It’s not that hard to convince people to outlaw it. They know that they can’t convince enough people to outlaw factory farms (gotta have the $1.99 chicken breast!), so they spend their energy here instead of putting their energy where it could actually make a difference.

  • Devan

    Andrew,

    First, you’re right that my analogy to my own hypothetical force-feeding was imprecise; people are indeed not birds. However, you’re mistaken when you say that, “left to their own devices, the animals will force feed themselves whenever possible.” The animals will eat, whenever possible, but is that not different from being force-fed? For one thing, eating does not involve a tube. For another, eating involves the ability to control when one has finished.

    Second, you say that in the US, foie gras birds are “given ample space and care.” I’m sure some are, but what do you say to the many videos floating around that speak to the contrary? A Google search reveals many. What, also, of the many articles from reputable sources citing abuse and mistreatment cited here?

    Third, your claim that there “has never been a sane argument” or one “with any scientific validity” strikes me as remarkably bold. I’m sure there have been arguments made to which you’ve not been privvy, for one thing. For another, what I’ve read—and neither of us, it seems, is a scientist—these birds, although, as you say, they are not human, experience force-feeding as a great displeasure, again to say the least. Google can provide you with much in the way of evidence here, too.

    Fourth, I quite agree with you about the uphill battle of banning $1.99 chicken breast, but that doesn’t really speak to the question of whether to ban foie gras, does it?

    Finally, you say you want to “say it to [me] again”, but we’ve never met, or even exchanged words in the past. Please show a little respect, and at least pretend you’re responding to my words, rather than to those you’ve heard from other people you’re lumping me in with.

    You also call arguments contrary to your own position “insane,” among other things. I wish you wouldn’t.

    P.S.: Sorry for my typos—I have a bad habit of spelling it “fois.”

  • DJK

    “This suggests of course that farmers who force feed their geese and ducks are simply controlling what the ducks would do naturally…”

    A quick Google search of “foie gras walk” suggests that force feeding makes it difficult and painful for geese to walk, which prompts me to ask two questions:

    1) Is that accurate?

    2) If so, is that really what geese do to themselves naturally?

    Also, and this may very well be irrelevant to the discussion, I vaguely recall your appearance with Michael Symon on Around Noon before Thanksgiving when the two of you introduced me to the heirloom turkey. I remember very little in terms of exactly what was said during the show, so I may have blurred what I heard on the air and what I read online afterwards, but isn’t one of the virtues of the heirloom turkey the fact that it’s raised in a much more natural environment and not blown up to the (perhaps analagously unwalkable) point that commercial turkeys are? Or is this merely a means to an end (though a comforting one) and not an end in itself?

  • luis

    Guys,Foie Gras is something that I haven’t had or may never really have. I have no dog in this fight. I did sit through IRON CHEF JAPANESE enough to see they used it week in and week out at NAUSEUMM>.. really!.
    When you have an ingredient like FOIE GRAS that is tantamount to LEGAL CULINARY CRACK!!!!!!! that insures you win the day… I have to wonder…??? What the hell is everyone thinking off? Culinary crack??? Iron Chef Blitzkrieg???? Oh please…!!!!!
    This ranks right up there with the crap Bourdain ingests day in and day out….
    But it’s a free country and you guys enjoy…
    and I don’t want an ingredient in my kitchen that will steal the show that way. Damm it I is the cook. Ingredients are ingredients and Foie Gras Crack… NOT IN MY KITCHEN!!!!!!damm it.

  • Tags

    I’m inclined to believe that if geese or ducks can make excellent or superior foie without force-feeding, that should be the preferred way of doing it.

    If anything, it would take more employees (read: jobs) to tend to the birds and the price should be easier to raise than with staples because it’s a luxury.

    Also, doing so would remove any objection to foie except for the perennially hard to justify “meat is murder” claptrap. That, and it would leave us with more fuel to tool around in our Duesenbergs and Bentleys.

  • faustianbargain

    sousa raises his GEESE and feeds them a NATURAL DIET and they are ready in WINTER.

    hudson valley foie gras farm breeds STERILE HYBRID DUCKS in a BARN and feeds them CORN MUSH and FAT through a TUBE and HVFG is available YEAR AROUND.

    it would take a thick pillock not to spot the difference.

    of course, sousa wont sell to restaurants who waste such a rare product. waitaminute..foie gras is not really that rare, is it? when its factory farmed and mass produced.

    do you know how many geese have to be bred naturally to supply to ‘fine dining’ restaurants? not possible unless they are factory farmed..where HVFG and its ilk are doing a bloody effective job already.

  • Allen

    “Just because something would be a hardship for humans does not mean it is a hardship for a particular animal.”

    ————-

    That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read in my life. People like you have NO clue about animals. Your ignorance is the only thing bigger than your appetite.

    An animal (EVERY animal) feels pain the same way as you and I. They experience emotions and stress too. This has been proven beyond any doubt. Period.

    No, a bird is not a person. You are right about that ‘one’ thing. But that doesn’t mean they have any less right to live their life without being tortured.

    Anybody who tries to belittle the life and feelings of another living creature… makes me sick.

    Guess what Andrew. A duck has just as much right to life as YOU do… whether you like it, or agree with or not.

  • Sonicgg

    Sigh, as someone who was a semi-vegetarian (never gave up fish) and now enjoys foie gras when it is served up at a nice meal here in Japan- it is definitely de riguer- I find the arguments against it fairly absurd. Why not carry them out to the nth. Ban eating of all animals. Ban pets. Ban stepping on ants…Certainly, the “cruelty” of modern day animal raising is merely an outcome of modern capitalist economic scale and it is the same “cruelty” that creates massive waste in the form of plastic packaging and Fox TV programs. It’s not going away tomorrow and it’s not going away if we ban foie gras or even if we banned all meat. A positive step is, indeed, the current focus on getting food from local artisanal sources. It’s too bad G. Ramsay is working with Fox in the US since I thought his raising animals for slaughter with his children should definitely be seen by all Americans.
    Most of the world are not vegetarians and many of those forced to be so due to poverty would prefer to eat meat- for better or worse. That said, I am still not a regular meat eater and can avoid it quite easily if I make all my own meals. However, even in Japan, a country famous for healthy, vegetarian fare, it is very difficult to be a vegetarian when dining out…
    GG

  • blowback

    When Barber asked about buying Sousa’s foie gras, Sousa, clearly a quirky farmer, replied, “Chef’s don’t deserve it.”

    But apparently some do!

  • Dervin

    I felt a great disturbance in the Blog, as if millions of logicians suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

    Needless to say let’s start an analysis of Ruhlman’s Logic:
    Waterfowl have been know to fatten up for winter migration therefore it’s natural and it’s OK for us to stuff tubes down their throat and force feed them. We can easily extend to Women have been known to enjoy sex with me, therefore it’s ok for me to lock them in my basement and force them to have sex with me.

    I hope you’ll testify at my trial and defend me in the press when one of them eventually escapes (It’s probably going to be the redhead, she’s a feisty one – she’ll ask for McDonald’s to spite me).

    And as other’s have shown, this blog and many of the regular posters are anti-factory farms when it comes to chicken, beef, pork and even fish but when it comes to Foie Gras – these same people become champions of industrial farming – Corn Meal! Yes! Antibiotics all the way!

    Finally, the driving force against Foie Gras are also the same people who are leaking the videos of other factory farming practices. They have the logical consistency on our side.

    Now here’s the thing, I love foie gras, but it is inhumane. So instead of committing additional crimes against logic and rationality, it might be easier to just admit you are not very good person. There’s no difference between the person who eats whatever the supermarket puts in plastic. Oh, wait that would require a reduction in one’s self-esteem, I guess it’s back to the Iron Maidien for Russell and Kant.

  • Natasja

    I have had several blind foie tastings here in Madrid in the last year (I am an professional, independent taster), and Sousa’s foie has always come out with very high numbers. After first establishing that the end product is excellent, and then investigating how he elaborates it, I would recommend his foie because I think it is more “natural” and “sustainable” (i can’t stand these nebulous terms). Since the geese are not caged and allowed roam and forage according to their own level of hunger, I would imagine they experience less stress and we know that meat tastes better from animals with lower stress. It is a seasonal product, and because it mostly forages for food available in the dehesa (fields)it is not eating feed corn and grains. The geese roam with the famous Iberian pigs, and it is a good way to add value to keeping the fields for grazing animals and supporting smaller scale farming. I believe he is also experimenting with a way to slaughter the geese in fields with a mobile abbatoir to further lower their stress.
    So just as one tries not to eat tomatoes in January because it is not reasonable, I think its worth seeking out Sousa’s foie because it is good and reasonably produced.

  • Claudia (the Original)

    Dervin, comparing the husbandry of ducks to the sexual enslavement of female humans (even fiesty, red-headed ones), even jokingly, is specious, at best.

    Claudia (the Original One – not the first one posting at the top of this board) . . . Who is Also Fiesty and Auburn-Haired (!)

  • Jay

    My position on foie gras is very similar to my position on other farmed meats. I know that quite a bit of the process is inhumane, and yet I knowingly turn a blind eye whenever it is convenient for me to do so. I’d say that puts me (somehow) on an ethically higher ground than those who eat foie gras and back up their behavior with facts and figures that “prove” this process (or others like it) is somehow humane and natural.

    I agree with Devan and Dervin’s point; just because I may sometimes gorge myself does not give someone else the green light to shove a tube down my throat and put cheeseburgers in the other end.

  • Ryan Stambaugh

    Ryan,

    You used a strawman yourself. Ruhlman never said or inferred what you ascribed to him: (“Yes, because folk against force-feeding geese MUST be buying boneless, skinless meats”).

    Here is what he said:

    “I never thought they had any leg to stand on if they argued only that the practice of gavage were inhumane but were happy to buy boneless skinless chicken breast and beef tenderloin from America’s meat factories.” (emphasis added)

    Ruhlman’s wasn’t even a strawman argument. He clearly thinks it’s hypocritical to buy factory raised meat and oppose force-feeding of geese on inhumane grounds.

    A ‘straw man’ misrepresents an opponents position. Which – perhaps inadvertantly – you are clearly guilty of doing but Ruhlman is not.

    Best,
    the ‘other’ Ryan 😉

  • Devan

    The “Other” Ryan,

    You’re quite right, of course; I made the same mistake as Ryan about what a straw man is.

    What I think we both meant to say about Ruhlman’s argument is in fact that it’s a red herring.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Kate in the NW

    Wow. I guess you knew what you were asking for here. You’re probably on a beach somewhere in the Carribean – stay there – you can let this blog run itself for at least another week on this topic. The readers will write it for you and you can come back later and wipe the splattered blood off the walls. (That’s my attempt at dark humor, not a trash of the topic).

    It is interesting…upsetting? how readily presumably civilized people jump to extremes and spin out fairly strident black-or-white arguments, not to mention employing bitter personal invectives. We get serious about our food! Maybe we should add it to sex (as has already been done), politics (ditto), and religion (I won’t even go there) as Topics We Can’t Normally Discuss In A Civilized Manner Unless We All Agree. What a shame. It would be nice if we could make some progress without name-calling. I’m not sensing much of the good-natured, humorous jabs I usually see on this blog – folks seem deadly serious about those duck livers as the symbol for all suffering.

    Just a question – do these kinds of food/farming-related arguments get so…vehement…in other countries? Maybe a topic for another blog – Comparative Culinary Cultural Conflicts…

    It’s definitely interesting.

  • Kate in the NW

    Oops. GOOSE livers – sorry. I’m not a farmer. Duck, goose, whatever…it’s too expensive for me most of the time anyway. And for the record, I do like to feel like the animals I eat have had decent (if short) lives before I eat them, so I choose my meats carefully.

  • Andrew

    “An animal (EVERY animal) feels pain the same way as you and I. They experience emotions and stress too. This has been proven beyond any doubt. Period.”

    I don’t argue that animals do indeed feel pain and stress. However, you can’t anthropomorphize them and assume they feel pain EXACTLY the same way you do. Geese and ducks have no gag reflexes. Geese and ducks have been known to swallow rocks. That alone makes the entirely different than humans. They do indeed feel pain and stress, but what causes them pain and stress is not the same thing that causes you pain and stress. Blood tests have been done on birds being raised for foie gras, and their stress level is many times lower than a bird in the wild. If you call raising them this way torture, what is letting them live in the wild?

    All animals are different, they are all stressed by different things, yet people continue to anthropomorphize and assume they are all little humans and are bothered by the things humans are. You simply assume that because it would bother you, it also bothers the birds when no evidence shows that it does.

    I’m sure there are high volume producers out there who keep the birds in small cages and under lots of stress and in unsanitary conditions. I’m completely against that (although in the US, there aren’t enough producers for this to be an issue). I want all my producers to humanely raise and slaughter the meat I eat. But no one has given any evidence that properly produced foie gras stresses the birds anymore than the vacuum cleaner stresses my cat. And I’m not about to stop vacuuming my house.

  • Tags

    Folks, you’re making a lot of great points, but some of you are taking a dump on the living room rug at the same time.

    If there’s anything to be learned from the presidential race this year, civility is the foundation upon which reasoned discussion is built. Let’s not make this a “house of points” just as likely to fall as a house of cards.

  • Claudia (the Original)

    Yep, Kate, every time the subject of foie comes up here, blood does wind up on the floor – welcome to the blog (!) (And yes, other blogs can get just as vehement – bloggers being worldwide and fully globalized). Tags, backing you up – let’s keep it civil, folks. We’ve been here several times before . . . last winter . . . last spring . . . and the beliefs of several posters, on both sides of the issue, are already well-known and well-documented. So let’s not turn this discussion into endless vitriolic screeds and name-calling, OK? No one is going to be converted, either way, here.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I wish someone who knows Chef Martin Picard would ask him about foie gras since he is so well known in Quebec for his Petit Couchon restaurant…Foie gras is not a big issue here so it would be an interesting read on why that is vs the United States and their reasons

  • milo

    “Ruhlman’s wasn’t even a strawman argument. He clearly thinks it’s hypocritical to buy factory raised meat and oppose force-feeding of geese on inhumane grounds.”

    Since many of the people who oppose force feeding also oppose factory farming, this does sound like a strawman to me. Sure, it’s hypocritical. But nobody here has actually made that argument – it seems like he’s just intentionally choosing the weakest potential imaginary opponent to disagree with. Bringing up factory farming is just a rhetorical cheat instead of simply arguing force feeding on its own merits.

    And assuming we agree with the above hypocrisy, how is it any less hypocritical to oppose factory farming on the grounds of cruelty but support force feeding?

    I completely agree that we aren’t ducks and we can’t really know what a duck feels like when we do something to it. But I find it ridiculous to say that but then insist that we know that the ducks feel NO pain or stress. If you want to believe that it’s humane, that’s your prerogative. But don’t insist that your opinion is a fact, or that people who don’t agree are “insane” or other ad hominems. We simply have no way to know if they are suffering, and in the case of something that seems cruel, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to err on the side of caution.

    And nobody has addressed my original question – if birds will do this on their own if provided enough food (which I assume everyone here agrees is not cruel), then why not do that instead of force feeding (which obviously there is much debate over whether it’s cruel or not)?

  • faustianbargain

    to natalie.s…quebecois relate to their french canadian roots…also, i suppose there is a little culinary history there. doesnt mean that foie gras production is any less cruel in quebec..as it has been well documented. it’s just that less people are bothered than in the united states because of some blurry connection to their french culinary roots.

    asking martin picard about foie gras is like asking andre daguin if foie gras is cruel. doh!

    meanwhile, there is no such background in the united states.

  • Tags

    It would be a rhetorical cheat if animal rights activists had unlimited resources.

    Absent that, logistical wisdom is optimal.

  • milo

    “It would be a rhetorical cheat if animal rights activists had unlimited resources.”

    Sorry, I don’t know what you mean by that.

  • Ryan Stambaugh

    Since many of the people who oppose force feeding also oppose factory farming, this does sound like a strawman to me.

    milo,

    If they oppose force feeding and oppose factory farming they don’t fit the original example.

    But nobody here has actually made that argument

    He wasn’t responding to anyone – his was the original post in the thread.

    And assuming we agree with the above hypocrisy, how is it any less hypocritical to oppose factory farming on the grounds of cruelty but support force feeding?

    I would assume this person doesn’t believe force feeding is cruel.

    I believe the poster DJK raised an interesting point (heirloom turkey’s vs. factory-raised turkey’s) that is inline with where you are going. But, seems to be just a tad more on point.

    -Ryan

  • Dervin

    Claudia (the Original),

    You, like my girls in the basement, are missing the critical point. I’m morally justified using the Ruhlman’s Principle: If a living being enjoys doing something by it’s nature, then we can consider it humane to force that being to do the exact same thing. By Ruhlman’s logic, I’m treating these girls morally – it could be a lot worse for them.

    Ruhlman is trying to defend a practice that is incompatible with his previous writings on livestock farming. He’s praised the free-range, hormone/antibiotic free/grass fed/ Happy smiling cows, chickens and pigs. But geese are not really deserving of the same protection.

    To see the fallacy of the logic, ask yourself, would you buy a chicken/pork/turkey/beef/lamb if it was treated in the same manner as Geese?

  • Mathias Eichler

    Michael R.
    you really should add extra Google ads onto your page whenever you post Foie Gras articles. That at least would make you some extra money. Or is there anything else to gain in this discussion?
    Oh, wait, it is humerous, to see people tearing themselves apart everytime you mention the F.G. word…

    Ever since reading “From here you can’t see Paris” by Michael S. Sanders, do I want to try Foie Gras, it sounds so amazing.

    mathias

  • Tags

    Milo,

    You said, “Bringing up factory farming is just a rhetorical cheat instead of simply arguing force feeding on its own merits.”

    And my response was “It would be a rhetorical cheat if animal rights activists had unlimited resources.” In other words, there are only so many activists, so use them wisely.

    For the ethereal pillocks out there, I’m saying don’t respond to the invasion of Poland by declaring war on Spain and those evil Franco fascists.

  • Maya

    Domestic ducks have evolved since they were domesticated. Also, the gavage is not the main issue; for the millionth time, I’m blue in the face from saying it, it’s when they are forced to spend all or most of their life in tiny, filthy cages. It’s not rocket science.

    Allowing them outside for 10 minutes a day is no different.

    Ruhlman, with all due respect, what do you mean “one less leg to stand on”? Are you running for president against Ingrid Newkirk? I know you are one of the few chefs who addresses animal rights, and I appreciate that. But my biggest concern is that people are taking out their anger with PETA on all animal welfare issues.

    The factory farmed animals did not create PETA. Humans did. The animals deserve consideration in their own right. So it’s not “they don’t have a leg to stand on”. PETA is not the only nonprofit concerned with how the animals are treated.

    Lets not fall into the trap of immediately assuming that the smallest measures of improvement in animal care makes real scientific sense. An automatic pat on the back is not in order. Animal care is a science, and each change needs to be looked at objectively.

  • Ducky

    What is funny here is that the raging war (or is it a just bitch fight) in the above comments seem to me to mainly come from meat eaters and those who eat Foie Gras. I’m just surprised that there are not more millitant animal rights vegetarians here. I suppose they are all munching on blocks of succulent and juicy tofo and can’t muster up the strength to fight back. But before you jump down my throat, let me put up my hand here and say that I am a vegetarian and I think that the production of Foie Gras, be it in a so called humane way or just the tube and pump way, is not something I can agree with. Let’s be honest here, the best argument for Foie Gras seems to be the taste, and that is fine I respect that, so much so that after 10 years of vegetarianism I just had to know what all the fuss is about and I tasted it myself (don’t tell the vegetarian society or I’ll be out on my ear). For me it didn’t do much but I can appreciate that it is a rich and unique taste and I can completely understand how someone might fall in love with it.

    But let us be honest the production of Foie Gras is not humane. And it is not humane to allow nature to take its course and let the birds do what they “would do naturally”. Yes naturally if they are presented with enough food. There are lots of things that animals want to do naturally that are not in their best interest, such as some of those critters, lets call them human, that would eat until they can’t fit out their front doors if they get too much take-away pizza, cheese burgers, fizzy drinks and TV. Their not being force feed they are just doing what is in their nature following their urges. And as a society we seem to agree that maybe it would be best to educate them more about the quantity and quality of what they are eating. Ok ok it is an easy example but my point is simply that it is no excuse to say that the birds are doing what they “would do naturally” it is still a cruel way to treat them and all in the name of taste.

  • milo

    Tags, I do agree that there are PETA types who have focused on things like foie gras because they are an easier target than trying to shut down all chicken or beef production.

    But there are also many people who don’t consider themselves “activists” but do consider foie gras production to be cruel and don’t support it.

    I think it clouds the issue and misses an opportunity to actually have a serious discussion about it to address the “activists” instead of just discussing the merits of foie gras itself, and the potential positive consequences of what Sousa is doing. Maybe it’s not the intention, but it comes off as another lazy “hey look at the wackos” dismissal (of course ignoring the many people who happen to share one point of view with the “wackos”…but still seem to be lumped in with them).

  • Claudia

    Dervin –

    No, I’m not missing the point. Women are human beings, and there is a big difference between a human female who enjoys sex having it when she wants it, and a human female who enjoys sex being COMPELLED to have it, for a start.

    A duck or goose who loves to eat and the wild and a duck or goose in captivity being gavage’d is simply not a rational comparison. A duck is not going to feel traumatized, violated and have major security/survivor issues by being gavage’d. I’ve been on enough farms to see that, even being gavage’d, the ducks and geese still trail after the farmer and even hang out waiting for feeding time. No human victim of rape (and how is rape even comparable to gavage?) is going to trail after her attacker or hang around for seconds.

    Your comparison is inherently faulty, both by trying to equate a human’s emotional and mental response to a situation to a duck’s, AND by trying equate a duck’s captivity and gavage to a human’s captivity and RAPE, for Christ’s sake. I’m not saying ducks and geese can’t feel stress or fear – of course they can. But, face it: a duck or goose being gavage’d – no matter much he enjoys food – is just not going to have the same emotional, physical and mental reaction to that as a human being being forcibly sexually assaulted – no matter how much she might enjoys sex otherwise. It’s just a faulty comparison, is all.

  • Tags

    Very good points, but the discussion was about straw men and rhetorical cheats.

    My point wasn’t so much “look at the whackos” as “it’s a legitimate point to contrast factory farms with foie farms.”

  • milo

    It’s a legitimate point, but I’m saying it’s not relevant to this discussion. It’s a distraction (hence the mention of rhetorical cheats and straw men).

    Claudia, you ARE missing the point. While the comparison is obviously an incredibly tasteless one, it is a valid analogy, logically speaking.

    Is it really that much of a stretch that if someone (human or animal) likes doing something, they aren’t necessarily going to be OK with being forced to do it?

    And how are you able to know what a duck is feeling? (By the way, from what I’ve read, force fed ducks and geese do generally tend to avoid the people who do the feeding, while those fed normally tend to approach them, although obviously there will always be exceptions).

  • Claudia

    Yes, Milo, it IS a stretch to make that comparison when your’re talking about a duck faced with gavage being as stressed and traumatized as a woman faced with rape. And, yes, the analogy was incredibly tasteless (and equally insensitive – rather ironically so, since the anti-foie faction is rather sensitive to the feelings of ducks and poultry.)

    Hopefully, the whole controversy over foie will become moot if other farmers follow Sousa’s example and let their poultry free-gorge and free-range, since it apparently produces the same results.

  • faustianbargain

    claudia, others wont follow sousa’s example just as everyone isnt going to start rearing free range chicken or lamb or grass fed beef. rearing 2000 geese a year on acorns and figs is more expensive than raising sterile hybrid ducks in barns on corn mush. factory farmed foie gras will never be ‘humane’ or ‘small scale’. it is also cheap…to produce, that is..you’ll still pay a lot of money for a lobe of force fed duck liver.

  • milo

    “as stressed and traumatized as a woman faced with rape”

    Nobody ever said that. The point of that comparison (which again I’ll say is offensive and a poor choice of examples) is to debate the assertion that if someone enjoys doing something, there won’t be any stress or discomfort from forcing them to do it against their will. You have complained about the comparison, but you haven’t really given an argument that Like It=Forced To Do It.

    I think you’re getting hung up on the offensiveness of the comparison and missing the point it is meant to illustrate. Tactless? Yes. But “specious”? No.

  • Maya

    Faustian is correct – animal products with high demand will never allow for humanely raised animals, just as an animal caregiver is no different than an animal hoarder if they are trying to care for 150 animals in one building.

    In shelters and cruelty cases we constantly heard people declare “I love my dog” or “I love my horse” while it stood in someone’s back yard starving to death with its collar or halter growing into its infected skin. Nice intentions mean nothing when it comes to real animal care.

    The only way farming will ever be humane is if demand goes DOWN and the prices go UP. What that means for diners and restaurant owners and chefs is that we will have to consume meat and fish less frequently, end of story. Or else live with the consequences.

    Current certified humane standards do not always live up to real animal care that stands up to the science of animal health and wellbeing.

  • Dervin

    Claudia, for the love of God, read something other than a cookbook. But avoid Jonathan Swift, he has some recipes which would cause you to faint, or call child social services on him.

    Claudia, Much like the ducks following the farmer – women stay with abusive boyfriend and husbands all the time. So you really shouldn’t impose your feelings on the women in my basement.

    I’m pro-foie-Gras but I’m anti-self-serving-faulty-logic. Like I previously wrote: I love foie gras.

    Every major progress in Human Rights over the last 500 years, was made not because of a philosophical change an advancement in the Moral Code, but because society declared a class of people worthy of protection under the Moral Code (the declaration came under varying degrees of duress).

    And we have a moral code for treating animals raised for food, humane. And there’s plenty of variations, but up until the Foie post, we could consider our standard for humane treatment be “The animal shouldn’t be relieved to die.” We like our cows eating grass and walking around, we like our chickens to see sunlight and have beaks, etc… There are practical limits (gets expensive, hard to find), but it’s nice easy to follow rule.

    Is Factory Farmed Meat treated humanely? No. And neither is factory farmed Foie Gras.

    If One wants the smug self-satisfaction of eating humanely raised meat, then Foie Gras is off the menu (except for Sousa). If you don’t care about how your meat was treated when it was alive, then Foie Gras is OK.

  • Claudia

    I am not imposing my feelings on the fictional women in your basement. I’m just saying it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison to compare ducks and gavage to women and sexual enslavement. A more appropo comparison would have been ducks and gavage to, say, a dog who enjoys being out in the yard being put out and made to stay the yard. And I read a lot more than cookbooks, Dervin, ansd on a lot wider subjects than just food. So climb off the snotty moral and intellectual high ground – I did not attack YOU, personally – merely what I regard as a flawed analogy in comparing the emotional landscape of animals to that of humans.

  • Skawt

    I love how folks show up on Ruhlman’s blog only when they have some animal rights political agenda to promote, and are completely silent the rest of the time. It’s too bad Ruhlman doesn’t have the time to moderate the blog. This kind of crap is why I hardly post here anymore.

    Haranguing people that will never agree with you with the same inane diatribes over and over again isn’t going to win them to your side. It’s just going to piss them off. If that was your intention, you succeeded in your mission. Now go read this again, because you people need to read it every time you feel the need to post your ridiculous arguments:

    http://users.tpg.com.au/users/tps-seti/baloney.html

  • Maya

    Skawt,

    You know, just because some of us don’t comment it does not mean we are not reading. If Ruhlman wishes to reduce the number of comments, he is welcome to delete my comments or to set the site for owner approval only.

    Personally I don’t comment very often here because I’m a vegetarian and I’m allergic to wheat. That means no bread, no pasta, cookies, nothing. I don’t have much that’s eloquent to say on food that I don’t eat.

    Also, I’m not very proficient in cooking so I have very little intelligent to offer when the subject of making food comes up. I do, however, appreciate his elements of cooking and educational posts, which are very useful to me as someone who would really love to be a good cook.

    I am assuming that Ruhlman would prefer to have many readers, and that he also appreciates people’s restraint in commenting if they have nothing to say. I’m not going to make a comment like, “Duh, that’s nice” if I’m not eloquent on the subject at hand.

    Sometimes it’s better if we know when to shut up, if you get my drift.

  • JennieTikka

    Dervin, Maya, Faustian, et. al.

    If you are correct then how do you respond to these questions:

    Certain animals are known to cannibalize either their own offspring and/or their own siblings. Animals have been known to do this in the WILD (and not just in captivity).

    Now, if the animal in this question, is as sentient a being as a human being is…then that means it knew what it was doing; it knew it was not acting in love and that it was creating pain by killing & eating its own offspring/brother/sister and using it for food.

    How then is it the equivalent to a being (animal or human) that NEVER kills and eats a relative?

    Or is the animal NOT a sentient being and it did what it did in moral ignorance (in which case it would not be the equivalent to a sentient human being).

  • Skawt

    Maya said:

    “Sometimes it’s better if we know when to shut up, if you get my drift.”

    And some people never know when to shut the hell up.

  • Maya

    JennieTikka,

    Hello!

    What you bring up has been the subject of some pretty interesting research. While most of us realize that no animal on Earth will ever paint a Mona Lisa, compose symphonies or build a car, what is not always obvious is that higher moral reasoning is just as complex of a task.

    Moral reasoning requires that humans like you and I place ourselves in the mind of another being. This is an extremely complex brain function limited to humans and one or two species of primate. As far as other animals are concerned, it ain’t happening.

    Even in primates who have some limited moral reasoning, they are ANIMALS. They do not have nearly the level of self control that we do. They react. They live minute to minute.

    Sometimes in nature, Jennie, what looks like brutal and immoral behavior is actually beneficial to the species. Natural selection compels predators to kill other’s offspring in an attempt to contine a genetic line or to rid the lineage of a sick or weak member.

    Obviously this is not thought out in some lion therapy session. It is a reaction and an instinct. Read Darwin’s Origin of the Species for more.

    I hope I understood your question correctly.

    😉

  • faustianbargain

    jennie/tikka, i have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. what dervin is saying(and i posed the same question…ad nauseum/ad infinitum..last december) has nothing to do with cruelty or sentient beings. D is asking why there is a different set of definitions when it comes to factory farming of ducks for foie gras. it is clear that the same standards is verboten amongst the more educated/conscious ‘foodies’ when it comes to other animals.

    e.g:

    corn for cows as it isnt its natural food = bad. corn mush mixed with fat for foie gras ducks = the ducks are blessed!

    also:

    chicken raised in barns and not free range = bad. ducks bred and raised in confined space = who cares?

    further:

    no part of the pig wasted = a capital idea! the casualties of foie gras industry due to organ failures/ruptures/lack of mobility = acceptable business expense.

    turkeys bred for larger breast size/white meat = yuck!! breeding hybrid sterile ducks especially because they are suitable for force feeding = yum!!

    etc…you should get the idea by now….i hope.

  • Wilmita

    Dear Faust,

    Franz Kafka once said, “In the battle between you and the world, back the world.”

    The world unfortunately will drag on and on, with all its faults and foibles.

    You’re no better or worse than the rest of us. In the continuum of time, if this would be your greatest triumph then I have sincerely have nothing but pity for you.

    Surely you can make your hurrahs in a more constructive and affective manner, than trolling on a food writer’s blog.

    Over and out.

    -Wilmita

  • Wilmita

    Faust,

    Please inform me of how much MY pity of YOU, is worth on eBay.

    I have faith and wait for you to really do something significant to try to change the world, tradition, history and society instead of just flaming and trolling a renowned food writer’s blog.

    Food riots are happening in your native India. That has to be important to you.

    I am not trying to tweak you. I have students for which I must prepare tomorrow.

    Peace; Out.

    -Wilmita

  • faustianbargain

    food riots are also happening in mexico, morocco and uzbekistan. i havent read about food riots in india tho’..can you show me where you read/heard about this?

  • Skawt

    I was just looking at the online dictionary, and there are some really fascinating words that just seem to pop out at me.

    POMPOUS

    Main Entry:
    pomp·ous Listen to the pronunciation of pompous
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈpäm-pəs\
    Function:
    adjective
    Date:
    15th century

    1 : excessively elevated or ornate 2 : having or exhibiting self-importance : arrogant

    SANCTIMONIOUS

    Main Entry:
    sanc·ti·mo·nious Listen to the pronunciation of sanctimonious
    Pronunciation:
    \ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-ˈmō-nē-əs, -nyəs\
    Function:
    adjective
    Date:
    1603

    1: hypocritically pious or devout
    ARROGANT

    Main Entry:
    ar·ro·gant Listen to the pronunciation of arrogant
    Pronunciation:
    \-gənt\
    Function:
    adjective
    Etymology:
    Middle English, from Latin arrogant-, arrogans, present participle of arrogare
    Date:
    14th century

    1 : exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner 2 : proceeding from or characterized by arrogance

    WINDBAG

    Main Entry:
    wind·bag Listen to the pronunciation of windbag
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈwin(d)-ˌbag\
    Function:
    noun
    Date:
    1827

    : an exhaustively talkative person

    VINDICTIVE

    Main Entry:
    vin·dic·tive Listen to the pronunciation of vindictive
    Pronunciation:
    \vin-ˈdik-tiv\
    Function:
    adjective
    Etymology:
    Latin vindicta revenge, vindication, from vindicare
    Date:
    15th century

    1 a: disposed to seek revenge : vengeful b: intended for or involving revenge2: intended to cause anguish or hurt : spiteful

    And here’s a few I didn’t expect to find:

    DOUCHE BAG

    Main Entry:
    douche bag
    Function:
    noun
    Date:
    circa 1963

    slang : an unattractive or offensive person

    ASSHOLE

    Main Entry:
    ass·hole Listen to the pronunciation of asshole
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈas-ˌ(h)ōl\
    Function:
    noun
    Date:
    14th century

    1 : usually vulgar : anus
    2 : usually vulgar : a stupid, incompetent, or detestable person usually vulgar : the worst place —used in phrases like asshole of the world

    It’s great how there are so many words to describe people that will hold a blog hostage with their diatribes, way past the point of polite debate, taking full advantage of the good nature of the blog’s owner, who does not wish to resort to banning people that he admits are annoying and out of touch with reality.

    It’s too bad, because interacting with others in the comments is part of the enjoyment of this blog, but a small handful of people have decided to kidnap this forum to use as a platform for their own unpopular political agenda. The likely reasoning for this is that their own blogs full of ranting screeds go unread and uncommented, and the only forums where they really are welcome are populated by intolerant people just like them.

    So thanks for ruining Ruhlman’s blog for many of us. Congratulations. I hope you’re happy. But I doubt it. People like you are never happy even if you get everything you demand, because the only enjoyment you get in life is making other people miserable.

  • ruhlman

    i guess it’s time to end the comments on this one. apologies for not keeping better track of the dialogue or moderating it a little better.