Ever since California banned foie gras, chefs have found ways to slice their way around the loopholes. Last week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed legal action against La Toque, in Napa Valley for illegally serving foie gras. Serve is the key word in this duck drama. Kenneth Frank, owner says he is within his legal rights to serve, not sell, foie gras. No problem, Frank gives it away with the purchase of another menu item.
With New York Mayor Bloomberg's recent soda ban fizzing out and the foie gras-saga, the issue begs the question, "Do food bans work and to what end?"
Within hours of the Bloomberg soda ban going into affect, a judge saw the inequity in the ban. Some large-size sugary drinks were allowed in restaurants, while others were not. And, while the ban might have been an obstacle at restaurants, convenience store sales of King-Kong size cups were not regulated.
Does this mean, score one for 7-11, diabetes be damned? Not entirely when one considers the recent decline in soft-drink sales by millions of dollars and the 30% rise in profits with better-for-you menus at restaurant chains.
As for the foie gras ban. Other California restaurants have also pushed the intent, like THIR13EN in Sacramento. In August, a month after the July ban went into play, the restaurant also gave away foie gras sample with the purchase of another dish. Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach has been selling a burger that contains foie gras, to which PETA tried to engage the police to stop the restaurant. The police had better things to do than police what is on Californian's plates. (See the slideshow for Hot's Kitchen end of foie gras event last summer.
What the ban fails to do is draw attention to companies that are humanely raising ducks and producing foie gras without gullet-wrenching, force feedings. They do exist. Practices have improved immensely since the Roman days, as illustrated with companies like Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras, based in California. Should ducks be force fed for a consumer desire for fatty duck livers, no. But better yet, let's change animal farming for the better, forever.
If anything, given the history of the Animal Defense Fund, they may prefer that no one ever eat meat or poultry ever again, but their work might be better served to improve farming methods instead and support the companies who take the economic risk to do so.
Consumer demand for grass-fed beef, no-sugar beverages, humanely-raised meats and sustainble seafood poultry is changing how food is raised. I pity the waiter who gets bombarded by diners who know just enough about animal husbandry to be dangerous, still the staff answers their every question with a smile.
The real test is mass food production. Just look at McDonald's new sustainable fish policy, Chipotle's antibiotic free poultry and pork and the overall decline of soft drink consumption. Tightening the nanny-state apron strings doesn't change people's eating habits and desires. Education, awareness, access and consumer demand create long-term change. But, these take longer to accomplish than outright bans.
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