An interesting item found its way into my news reader this morning. Yesterday the city of Chicago lifted its foie gras ban, by a vote of 37 to 6. The ban was in place for a couple of years before city officials realized what gourmets all over the country were thinking: it was just ridiculous.
Why did they put the ban into place? I would bet that most Americans don't even know what foie gras is, and why it's so controversal. Allow me a moment to inform you. I'm told it literally translates to "fat liver", an accurate name considering that it's nothing more than the fattened liver of a goose, or more commonly these days, a duck. The traditional methods used to fatten that liver are what are under attack, and understandably so.
For those of you who may be squeemish about animal treatment, this is a good time to stop reading.
The centuries-old method of producing foie gras generally involved restraining the bird, sometimes by locking all but its head in a box too small to move in, and even nailing its feet to the bottom of that box. The grower would then force-feed the bird, who's liver would fatten as it had no opportunity to work off the excess calories. Come to think of it, it reminds me of my past life in the tech support world, minus the nailed feet.
To say that this method isn't really common anymore would be an understatement. In fact, I don't think it's even been legal for a long time (citation needed). Certainly, quality growers in the United States decry such abuse and have opted for far more humane methods. Birds now are free to roam around, and when feeding time comes, I've been told that most birds actually look forward to stuffing themselves beyond belief. Reminds me of being in cooking school, except for the part about being free to roam around.
Whether or not this still qualifies as humane is left to the consumer. Personally, I think it's far more humane than, say, your average chicken farm. Why not attack chicken farms instead? Let's face it, delightful as it may be, foie gras is still a niche market. It's an easy target with far less legal power to fight back than, say, KFC. If somebody were to fight against animal cruelty, there's much less risk in picking on the little guys, twisting facts into misinformation for their own self-righteous purposes. In truth, it's the same tactic the big guys would probably use if they had to, but it's apparently okay with smaller special-interest groups, because they're doing it all in the name of humanity.
Anyway, I'm okay with Chicago lifting the ban. My wife and I are planning on heading out there towards the end of summer for a friend's wedding. We're hoping we can save enough money to dine at Alinea while we're out there. Maybe if we're lucky, Grant Achatz will have added foie gras to his tasting menu.