California foie gras ban struck down by federal judge

File: A plate of foie gras.
File: A plate of foie gras.
By Nikodem Nijaki via Wikimedia Commons

Foie gras lovers in California can rejoice after a federal judge on Wednesday blocked the state's ban on the sale of the fatty duck and goose liver.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, ruling on a lawsuit filed in the Central District, permanently blocked the state attorney general from enforcing the law that took effect two years ago, finding that the federal government's authority to regulate foie gras and other poultry products supersedes the state's.

California barred farmers from force-feeding birds with a tube, which is how foie gras is produced. The state also banned sales of the delicacy.

The federal ruling came in a lawsuit brought by foie gras farmers in Canada and New York and by the Hermosa Beach restaurant Hot's Kitchen.

Their attorney, Michael Tenenbaum, called the ruling a victory "not just for foie gras but for freedom." His statement said Hot's Kitchen chef Sean Chaney is shouting from the rooftop, "Let the foie start flowing again!"

Chaney told KPCC he brought the suit as a matter of principle as well as profits.

"I didn’t believe that the state had a right to tell us what we can and can’t sell," he said. "It affected our bottom line when the ban went into effect. We sold quite a bit of foie and then all of a sudden we weren’t allowed to sell any foie. It’s a fairly high ticket item so that does, that can affect your bottom line."

The dish will be reintroduced to Hot's menu by tomorrow, Chaney told KPCC. A foie burger will go for roughly $15 .

Capital Public Radio reports animal rights groups have called on California Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal. CPR spoke with Jennifer Fearing from the Humane Society.

“The ruling of this court relies on some absurd notion that force-feeding is an ingredient in the production of foie gras," Fearing told the station, "which of course is absurd on its face – but also absurd because we know that foie gras can be produced without it.”

Some restaurants had defied or tried to find loopholes in the ban, including the Presidio Social Club in San Francisco, whose managers contended the law didn't apply to them because the restaurant is on land administered by a federal agency.

Chicago passed a similar ban on the delicacy but later repealed it.


Read the full suit below:

Foie Gras brief