Page 47 - Vallet Table - Spring 2020
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                                 “This is what we’ve built our business on. It’s always been New York City,” says Marcus Henley, manager of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG), the larger of the two farms. Both HVFG and La Belle Farm are located in Ferndale, a 2.5- hour drive from the City.
If the law withstands legal challenge, the duck farmers say there is a good possibility it will drive them out of business, throwing 400 workers, many of them immigrants, out of work. It will also hurt the business of the farms’ suppliers, officials say.
In 2018, HVFG sold $28.3 million of foie gras and associated duck parts, while La Belle sold a total of $10.3 million. New York City, with 1,000 restaurants that serve foie gras, accounted for 30 percent of those sales.
The New York City Council’s action comes as HVFG and La Belle are laboring to cope with a ban by California on the production and sale of force-fed foie gras. A federal appellate court upheld the California law in 2017, and
the Supreme Court refused to hear the case in January 2019. Litigation backed by HVFG continues in a lower California court.
California represented 20 percent of HVFG’s and La Belle’s business.
Most foie gras is produced by a technique called “gavage.” Ducks are fed a high-fat, corn-based mixture through a six-inch rubber tube three times a day during the 20 days prior to slaughter, swelling their livers to up to 10 times their normal size.
Animal rights groups insist the process is inherently cruel, one of the most inhumane in the food-processing industry.
“They don’t understand farming,” says Sergio Saravia, president of La Belle. Farm operators say that the ducks are treated humanely and, by virtue of their anatomy, suffer no pain or discomfort from force feeding.
Council member Carlina Rivera, who introduced the city measure, says that her Lower East Side constituents aren’t a part of the luxury market that's catered to by foie gras producers.
“I also encourage all foie gras-producing farms, many of which purport to use sustainable practices, to pursue other methods of foie gras production,” Rivera said in a statement to Food & Wine, “such as those done by farmers in Spain that employ different methods using highly dense food.”
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