Top chef and doyenne of Chicago fine dining Charlie Trotter has banned foie gras from his eponymous restaurants.
Despite liberal use of the French delicacy in the past, Trotter, who uses only free range and organic produce, has undergone a volte-face.
Fois gras production has long been a partisan issue, with many people appalled by the practice of gavage –force feeding animals to produce unnaturally swollen livers.
Trotter, named Humanitarian of the Year 2004 by his peers for his community work, has joined a growing tide of American opinion against the product.
Many expect fois gras – which to many epitomises the joint vices of cruelty and gluttony – to join alcohol and tobacco on American conservatives’ blacklists. Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger has legislated to phase out Californian production by 2012, and other states look set to follow.
Israel is committed to a ban and several European countries – including Germany, Luxembourg and Italy – have outlawed force feeding.
Condemnation is not unanimous. Many French farmers claim their methods are artisanal and even ‘free range,’ and it is only industrial-scale gavage that is cruel. French agricultural journal Animal Research recently claimed that traditional practices neither distress nor scare animals destined for fois gras.
While the ethical debate rages, elite chefs in America and throughout the world will continue to serve fois gras. As Raymond Blanc of Manoir aux Quats Saisons says, ‘it is just too good.’
Written by Matthew Hemming