As of October 30, New York’s City Council voted 42 to six in favor of legislation banning foie gras from NYC restaurants and grocery stores. The dish made of fattened goose or duck liver, a French delicacy, will no longer be available in eateries and shops sourcing the product from farms that utilize force-feeding methods on their birds. Lawmakers have given the bill a three-year phase-in period to allow farmers time to adjust their business models and practices to accommodate more humane methods to avoid negative economic impacts.
Beginning in 2022, the sale of foie gras will be a misdemeanor crime carrying fines of up to $2,000. Earlier versions of the bill had proposed up to a year of jail time in response to the
Foie gras is a contentious dish because of how it is prepared, a method known as gavage. Birds are fed through a feeding tube three times daily for 12 weeks, a period of time that corresponds with migration. Foie gras producers claim that their animals are treated with great care in comparison to other farms that mass-produce meat for grocery stores. Animal rights advocates, however, argue that force-fed birds suffer from broken bones, disease, ruptured organs, and other ailments.
While the city’s bill leaves room for the sale of products similar to foie gras that have been created through more human methods, under the law inspectors are to assume that all foie gras has come from force-feeding unless otherwise documented. As a result, adequately enforcing the ban may prove to be a challenge.
What The Ban Means For Restaurants
Foie gras is currently served in roughly 1,000 New York City restaurants, all of which are expected to take a hit in response to the ban. Some restaurateurs, such as David Chang of Momofuku, have already spoken out against the ban. Banning foie gras, they argue, creates a challenge for businesses that rely on the classic culinary work as part of their best-selling dishes. One chef was concerned about how far the city would go to regulate the restaurant industry, questioning, “What’s next? No more veal? No more mushrooms?”
While France has protected foie gras as part of the country’s cultural heritage, New York City is not alone in issuing a ban on the product. California has already implemented a ban on foie gras, as have India, Israel, Germany, and Britain. As of 1997, Whole Foods does not offer foie gras products in its stores. Postmates banned the sale of the product from its site in 2018.
Restaurants may further struggle from the ban if their suppliers are unable to keep business going as usual. Farmers claim that foie gras makes up a significant portion of their sales, and suggest that the ban could lead to closings and hundreds of layoffs. Farms that are able to weather the change are likely to increase the costs of their products in order to maintain a profit. Beyond changing menus, restaurants might also find themselves paying more for goods. But don’t worry yet, the ban doesn’t begin until 2022. Stay tuned for updates.