Americans consume vastly more chicken, turkey, pork and beef than foie gras and veal, and most of the creatures those meats come from are raised in ways that are ethically and environmentally unsound. And so the New York Times lauds chef Wolfgang Puck's decision to "use products only from animals raised under strict humane standards" in all his restaurants. This means no more battery chicken or beef, but also no more foie gras. As a reader of this site, you're probably aware of my support for ethical and humane animal husbandry but also my support for foie gras.
I've read a lot about foie gras production, articles in support of it and articles against it. The one I found most enlightening was Jeffrey Steingarten's article for Men's Vogue from the spring of 2006, Stuffed Animals: Is foie gras the height of gastronomic pleasure or murder most fowl? His reports of stress studies done on foie gras ducks and geese conclude the animals are not in pain during the feeding process. And so I've felt comfortable eating foie gras on occasion.
Which leaves me in a troubling spot with regards to this editorial and Puck's decision. I want to fully support it, yet including foie gras bothers me. You don't need to measure the levels of corticosterone (a hormone closely associated with stress, reports Steingarten) in crated pigs or chickens to know they're stressed out. You can tell that because they chew off each other's tails (pigs) and peck each other to death (chickens) when kept on factory farms. And anything that relieves these animals from such deplorable conditions absolutely gets my support. But there seems to be a growing consensus that foie gras production is inhumane, and so it's included in decisions like Puck's. But if it's not inhumane, is that really fair? Or does the fact that someone is finally taking on the truly inhumane factory farm industry outweigh the loss of some succulent fatty liver? Honestly, I don't know.