Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Pickin' on the little guy....

I'm gonna reference this article a lot, so read it first then come back to your regularly scheduled reading.

Ah, it seems the weather is perfect for a Humane Society/PETA throwdown. Well, I've got a few spare minutes to knock this puppy out of the park so here goes.(bonus points for those of you that picked up on the irony of the term 'puppy')

In the spirit of full disclosure, I own two cats that are very old and I love both of them very much, so there.

So, the Humane Society has decided to pick a fight with Hudson Valley Foie Gras over elevated pollutant levels. Hmmmm, have you ever been to north eastern North Carolina? Next time you're on your way to the Outer Banks, turn off the AC and roll down your windows. You'll enjoy one of the most rank pig shit smells, courtesy of factory pig farming, that will literally make you want to throw up.(Pass the factory farmed pork chops, please) THAT is elevated pollutant levels. Wonder why the Humane Society isn't doing anything about that? My guess is that Big AG has pockets too deep, so it's easier to piss in a little guys pool than take on the real problem.

Paul Shapiro has characterized Hudson Valley as a factory farm. I'm was deeply saddened to read this part of the article because I think Mr. Shapiro has done some great work with regards to exposing ACTUAL factory farms. Perhaps he should plan a trip to North Carolina or Colorado or Iowa and get back to the roots of factory farming. I think he has forgotten.

The real tragedy here is that once again in America we've trained our eye not on a situation worth fixing, but on a situation that is easy. Can you take issue with how foie gras is produced? Sure. BUT, hey, if you don't like it then just shut up and don't eat it. Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Sonoma Foie Gras before it are EASY targets. Why doesn't the Humane Society and PETA go after factory farmed beef and pork or....I've got it....that turkey you all just ate for Thanksgiving that was jammed in a crate and living in its own shit for months.(Please read this it'll make you think that the Humane Society and PETA should be going after factory farmed turkeys) Go after those guys. Oh, wait, you want an easy fight, so you're gonna take on an industry with low profit margins and no lobbyists in Washington. Right. Way to be a hero.

People want to argue that gavage(google it) is cruel. OK, seriously? Have any of you ever been to a Ryan's 'Steakhouse' or Old Country Buffet or the York Fair? That shit is cruel. Listen, humans force feed themselves on a daily basis. If some of the people I've seen at the KFC buffet could line up and have a tube inserted into their mouths that would get the instant potatoes and gravy into their system faster, I'm sure they would gladly pay extra for the experience.(Just as an aside...could we do away with ALL paper napkins if buffets would just offer tubes for us to slam our food down? I gotta call Greenpeace...this idea is HOT...Wait, if Greenpeace bit on the idea, then would they be at odds with the Humane Society? YES, it would be a full-scale activist WAR or lawsuit which is a close as these folks get to war, lest they get their smooth hands dirty.)

Listen...I love foie gras. I love cooking it, I love eating it. Yes, it's a fattened liver of a duck. Big deal. Again, if you don't like it, don't eat it. I think being an exclusive vegetarian is boring, but hey, it's your call. Don't tell me that I can't cook foie gras because some folks think it's inhumane. I'll make that decision. A decision that each of you consider every time you decide to buy Big AG's factory farmed beef, pork and chicken at the grocery story. That's inhumane.

I will continue to buy my foie gras from Hudson Valley because I think they are a fantastic ARTISAN foie gras producer..... AND, I will continue to cook it because it's just so damn delicious.


Beau said...

HSUS got to be the 800 lb gorilla that they are by misleading people with calendars and stickers of cute little puppies and kitties, yours free with your donation. Kind hearted (and also meat eating) people of all stripes opened up their wallets and gave big time, in the interest of saving Fido and Fluffy. They didn't bother to take the time to find out what the real end game was (shocker). After all, the ASPCA and HSUS sound alike, so aren't they the same thing?

Problem is, they're not. HSUS is an extremist group, no different than PETA. Sure, maybe they wear the business suits to PETA 's tie-dyes, but they are the same at heart--the ultimate goal is to eliminate animal agriculture and the consumption of meat by humans. And probably eliminate zoos. And probably even eliminate your right to keep those two cats that you are so fond of.

Here's something that everyone who cares about farms and food must remember. Even though HSUS is currently entertaining itself with CAFOs, and it may be tempting to support them in that cause, it's only a matter of time before they come after the rest of us.

Lastly, I'm gonna be chuckling all week about the "smooth hand" remark.

Michael@greenakeys.com said...

Dont leave out the big AG organics that use migrant labor and irrigate their fields with contaminated recycled water to the list of things to fix. We cant all be perfect in what we buy all the time, but we can seek out local food, local restaurants and take the step of supporting the local economy. That is the way to make farming lucrative. Its right there at the precipice. We need a critical mass of folks who say no to the conventional and make the push to the unconventional. That way, the farmer, the small mom and pop restaurant, the local market can be a source of actual income for us small producers, rather than the money pit that is small scale agriculture.

Pasture raised poultry. Grass-fed meats. Seasonal veggies and fruits.

Its really not that hard. Its a value decision, its more expensive than the centralized food distribution system. However, its damn important. I just read an article about New Jersey and how they limit the number of restaurant liquor licenses to one license for every three thousand persons in a town. Seems like the perfect way to encourage Applebees and Olive Garden and to discourage small, independent chefs from opening their own kitchens.

Super duper.

Paul said...

Thanks for the interesting post. A few responses:

1. Foie is a relatively small campaign of HSUS's especially when compared to its campaigns against battery cages for laying hens, gestation crates for pigs, and veal crates for calves. It's misleading to assert HSUS is suing HVFG and ignoring larger animal cruelty concerns in agribusiness. In fact, if you look at the nine state laws passed to protect farm animals this decade, only one relates to foie gras.

2. HVFG is a factory farm. It confines, force-feeds, and slaughters around 500,000 animals per year.

3. The science is clear that force-feeding ducks for foie gras is detrimental to their welfare. That's why more than a dozen nations and California (with a phase-out) have banned it.

Bob del Grosso said...

I know this is not going to go down well with most of your readers but I Paul Shapiro is right: Hudson Valley is organized like a factory. However! The ducks are treated beautifully.

They are not confined in cages and they are not manhandled. The handlers are paid bonuses for reducing injuries and the ratio of handlers to ducks is high to minimize the chance that an overworked handler will lose his/her temper and take it out on the ducks.
The farm is immaculate and state of the art for this kind of operation.

Hudson Valley Farms proves that a farm can be organized along "assembly line" principles and still be humane.

BTW Great post Andrew! Thanks for stepping up to the plate on this.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your blog, right up to "Way to be a hero." Then your logic breaks down, IMHO. None of the statements in the last 3 paragraphs make a case for gavaging a goose.

To put this in perspective, I'm a faithful customer of Beau's, and I am about to make my first reservation with you for a Christmas dinner. I can't wait. I'm also ambivalent on whether foie gras is 'right' or 'wrong'.

I think it's possible to be a carnivore and feel that gavaging a goose isn't right. "Just don't eat/[insert any other active verb here] it" is not a solution to deal with a situation you feel is wrong.

Anyway, look forward to sampling your wares ... although I may skip the foie gras :-)


Anonymous said...

A duck, or goose, by design over-stuffs its liver. That is how they "feed" themselves during migration. Search gravage and see that it can be done ethically and humanely.
If these groups really wanted to help in animal husbandry they would go after Smithfield and the other corporate polluters.

Chef Andrew Little said...


Sorry you don't follow my logic on the 'way to be a hero'. The logic is that there is nothing heroic in pushing down on the little guy(not only are they the little guy, but the argument the HSUS presents is questionable at best) while vast efforts should be used to reform Big AG which on a percentage basis is a much bigger issue to animal welfare than Hudson Valley.

Thank you for your comments and for reading the blog.

Anonymous said...


sorry, that wasn't clear. I 100% agree with the 'way to be a hero' statement.

I grew up in a small farming/tourism community in Austria, so I know good 'terroir' from bad. The variety of meat and produce I can get around here is outstanding. Ithink SC PA could use a bit more of a 'stiff upper lip' when it comes to being proud of what the area has to offer. You, Beau, Kathy, and lots of other folks provide that, and for a relatively new transplant to the area, that's a great thing to see.

Looking forward to eating your food soon.