News on
Foie Gras lollipops from Graham Elliot Bowles at Avenues in Chicago on

Foie Gras Lollipops from Graham Elliot Bowles at Avenues in Chicago


Foie Gras Is Off the Menu in Chicago

By Kelly Snowden

Smoking in restaurants has been banned by states across the country, and if animal rights activists have their way, foie gras will be next. Their latest victory in the battle against foie gras producers took place in Chicago in late April, when the city council passed a ban on the sale and production of foie gras in the city. The law will go into effect on June 26, and anyone found in violation can be fined up to $500.

The ban has riled up Chicago chefs. Many have joined a group called Chicago Chefs for Choice, founded by Michael Tsonton of Copperblue and Didier Durand of Cyrano's Bistrot, that is looking into the constitutionality of the ban. Several of the group’s members have begun serving foie gras tasting menus, helping diners get their fix before the ban goes into place. A recent menu from Fixture showcased foie gras in five courses, all with wine pairings. And needless to say, foie gras sales in area markets are up as people stock up before the ban.

A poll of selected culinary Chicagoans had 97 percent of respondents coming out against the ban. Their opposition mainly stemmed from government interference in what people ate. Some said that eating meat is what humans have done for thousands of years; others mentioned different industries that also use controversial practices to bring meat to tables but aren’t watched as closely by the government.

The debate doesn’t have all chefs standing united, though. Insults were traded late last year between Chef Charlie Trotter, who stopped serving foie gras at his restaurant five years ago, and Chef Rick Tramonto of Tru. Tramonto accused Trotter of being a hypocrite for serving other meat that animal rights activists find questionable. But Trotter is not really in favor of the ban since he doesn’t like government interference in what people eat; he simply stopped serving foie gras after disapproving of what he saw at foie gras farms.

Chicago is the first U.S. city to ban foie gras, but California already has legislation on the books to cease production and sales by the year 2012. Since New York and California are the only two states with any significant foie gras operations, the California ban could make a large dent in the market. New York state legislators recently considered a ban, but the legislation was withdrawn.

go to top of page

...Published: June 8, 2006