Foie gras: No matter how humanely ducks are raised, is their fattened liver hard to swallow?

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Lori Midson
Foie gras oysters at Sushi Sasa.
Where do you draw the line on what you will and will not eat? If you follow a restrictive diet, either by choice or medical necessity, your line leaves little wiggle room. Vegans won't eat Cheddary mac and cheese, much less a burger. People with celiac won't eat pizza unless it's made with a special flour blend, and so on. But what about the rest of us, the omnivores who skip from plants to animals and back again?

I've been pondering this question ever since I ate a lovely plate of truffle-salt-cured foie gras over brioche at Corner House, which I review this week.

See also:
- Corner House: Chef Matt Selby has found a home in Jefferson Park
- Photos: A closer look at Corner House
- 100 Favorite Dishes: Foie gras oysters from Sushi Sasa

Like veal, foie gras isn't just food, it's culinary politics. Given its propensity to polarize a table, I'd put foie gras up there with discussions of immigration and abortion as something to avoid with in-laws or on a first date.

The controversy lies in the feeding practice that leads to those fattened goose or duck livers, a practice that can involve feeding tubes and charges of inhumanity. Matt Selby, like many other conscientious chefs around the world, sources his foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a 200-acre farm in New York he's toured twice. The facility takes pride in caring for its ducks, treating them humanely by keeping them cage-free and feeding them by hand.

But if you're not already a foie gras fan, is that enough to change your mind? Or is fattened duck liver too hard to swallow -- humanely raised ducks or not?



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Corner House

2240 Clay St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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6 comments
BobbieM
BobbieM

PETA recently released video footage taken inside Hudson Valley Foie Gras. The conditions for the ducks pre-force-feeding look about the same as your typical factory farm--the birds are crammed by the thousands inside a huge warehouse. Hardly natural conditions for a duck or any other animal. If anyone takes "pride" in that, their standards are pretty low. The force-feeding, which Hudson Valley delicately calls "hand-feeding," involves shoving a pipe down the birds' throats. The birds aren't "lining up" for this abuse--those who aren't too sick to move have nowhere to go. Watch the footage for yourself at peta.org.

davebarnes
davebarnes topcommenter

Love Foie gras.

Have not eaten uni and am not sure I want to.
Insects are out.

Carroll Graham
Carroll Graham

I stand closest to the table where it is being served! :D

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

The foie gras is a straw man in the animal cruelty argument. People (including me) who are concerned about animal cruelty from agricultural practices need to focus their energy on the billion-dollar CAFO industry, where millions of animals are processed every year with no regard to their suffering. There are only two foie gras farms in the entire US and they are family-owned small businesses that show care and respect to their animals. But somehow people ignore the cattle feedlots, battery chicken farms, and restrictive hog farms where pigs spend their entire lives in pens so small that they can barely turn around.

The ducks on farms like Hudson Valley Foie Gras spend the majority of their lives in natural conditions and actually volunteer for gavage (tube feeding in the fall). Ducks naturally overfeed at this time of year and their livers are genetically disposed to fattening before migration. 

There are more than likely foie gras production farms in other countries that do not meet the high standards that places like Hudson Valley adhere to. The key, as with all meat, is to know your source and support the farmers and ranchers who are doing it right. Or if you simply can't cope with death as part of the human food chain, become a vegetarian. 

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