Appetizers

Foie Gras headed back to court

The state of California has said it will appeal a recent ruling allowing the sale of foie gras, such as this served at Mulvaney's B&L restaurant in Sacramento.
The state of California has said it will appeal a recent ruling allowing the sale of foie gras, such as this served at Mulvaney's B&L restaurant in Sacramento. RBenton@sacbee.com

Foie Gras has been spotted at a number of Sacramento restaurants since its ban in California was repealed in early January, but the issue is once again headed to court. On Wednesday, Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a notice to appeal the decision by a U.S. District Court judge that lifted the ban on foie gras.

Foie Gras remains one of the most controversial ingredients in the culinary world. This fatty goose or duck liver is produced by force feeding the animals with a funnel to engorge their livers, a process called gavage. A ban on producing and selling foie gras in California went into effect in 2012. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson reversed the ban on Jan. 7, ruling that state ordinances were overreaching.

The animal rights group Mercy For Animals applauded Harris’ notice to appeal the recent court ruling.

“The district court’s misguided decision to allow the sale of cruelly produced foie gras in California is a grave miscarriage of justice,” said Nathan Runkle, founder of Mercy For Animals, in a statement. “The ruling is contrary to both law and common sense. We are confident that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will reject the district court’s bizarre and erroneous ruling and uphold this important law.”

While the production of foie gras remains banned in the state, the ingredient remains legal to sell in California. In Sacramento, foie gras will be offered as part of a Valentine’s Day menu at Esquire Grill and was incorporated into a potato chip dip at the Sacramento Bacon Fest chef’s competition on Jan. 25 at Mulvaney’s B&L.

Some in the pro-foie gras camp believe the notice to appeal was a formality. According to Cathy Kennedy, campaign director for the Coalition For Humane And Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS), the appeal will be likely scheduled in six to 18 months with the appellate court.

“It’s part of the process anytime someone loses a case,” said Kennedy. “Selling foie gras remains legal until the court says it’s not.”

Michael Tenenbaum, an attorney for CHEFS, believes the district court’s decision to repeal the ban will be ultimately be upheld.

“The decision was based on the simple fact that, in the field of meat and poultry, federal law is supreme,” said Tenenbaum, in a statement. “California does not have the right to ban wholesome, USDA-approved poultry products, whether it’s foie gras or fried chicken. We look forward to having our victory affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

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