As a ban on the production and sale of foie gras is set to take effect in California, culinary enthusiasts defiantly enjoy a six course evening featuring variations on the delicacy.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (REUTERS) - As a state-wide ban on foie gras looms closer in California, chefs and consumers alike are trying to get as much of the delicacy as they can, including attending foie gras festivals and last dinners.
Foie gras, which means "fatty liver" in French, is produced by force feeding corn to ducks and geese with a tube-like device in order to enlarge their livers. Once their livers are fattened, the birds are slaughtered and the organs are harvested. In 2004, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning the sale of any product derived from this process. The ban included a seven year grace period, to allow chefs and farmers enough time to come up with alternative way to fatten animals to produce foie gras.
Seven years and no new methods later, the ban is set to take effect July 1.
In opposition to the ban, several chefs in California have banded together as C.H.E.F.S. - the Coalition of Humane and Ethical Farming Standards - to host foie gras dinner parties, and raise awareness about how the ban will affect the world of food.
"It's a treat for chefs to get to cook for people to enjoy foie gras. And it's an art, not everyone knows how to cook foie gras properly and it's unfortunate for the consumer to have it taken away," said Nyesha Arrington, head chef at the Wilshire restaurant in Santa Monica, which held a foie gras festival on June 3rd.
"I've been up to Sacramento (California's capital) to lobby against senate bill 1520 by Senator Burton years ago and really just try to make everyone up in Sacramento more aware of the impact that it's going to have on us chefs and on tourism and on the dining guests," said Ray Garcia, a guest chef at the foie gras festivities.
Guests attending the event were just as opposed to the state ban as the chefs preparing their meals.
"To single out these farms which operate humanely, which take far better care of their ducks than any chicken farm on the state, to single them out and call them cruelty or torturous or whatever is just ludicrous," said Garrett Snyder.
Animal rights activists also joined the dinner party, holding large banners asking "how much cruelty can you swallow," and chanting "that's not dinner, that's diseased liver" outside the restaurant.
"Foie gras is a barbaric product, it never should have existed, it certainly should not exist now in 2012. It's made by cruelly force feeding ducks to enlarge their livers and there's no justification for it. Culture, tradition, none of that justifies torturing an animal so we can have this diseased liver and serve it as an overpriced table treat," said Bryan Pease, co-founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League.
Despite all the controversy, some think the ban will not change anything for true foie gras lovers.
"Truth is, I think that it's going to be like pot where it's supposed to be illegal but anybody can get it," said chef Mark Peel. "Because if you want to get Cuban rum you can, if you want to get Cuban cigars you can. If you want to get some Scottish whiskeys that are not approved for importation in the United States you can, you just have to do your research and find it."
The state ban will take effect July 1.