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Thoughts on Liver

January 24, 2008 | Frank Bonanno

When I write for this blog, I mostly like to focus on Colorado game and
produce—when the flavor peak hits, how to find good, organic examples,
and possibly how to cook it. Not today. Today I’d like to take a moment to
talk about foie gras.
I really like it. I like to sear it; I like to chill it; I like to eat it. I offer it to
friends in my home and guests in my restaurants for the rich flavor and
creamy texture and nutty aroma. I even like the crackling sound it makes
when I crisp up the sear. Yesterday, I received an email expressing
disappointment in my support of the unethical treatment of geese, and I
thought that in addition to responding to that writer directly, I’d write a little
about it here.
I think what troubled that writer the most is “gavage”—tube feeding a goose
so much food that its liver essentially stops working and nicely fattens up.
It’s difficult to address that kind of cruelty, because, it is, in point cruel.
Killing animals is cruel. Raising an animal to kill it is cruel. Every animal
raised for slaughter is treated inhumanely: Chickens’ beaks are severed so
that 50 of them won’t mutilate one another in tight quarters; cattle get
hormones to help them digest the corn that their stomachs cannot break
down; God only knows what’s been happening to the American turkey.
My take is purely gastronomic—an animal that has been allowed to roam
develops good muscle tone and flavorful meat (which is why 90% of this
country’s “farm” animals and foul taste like they were sliced from the same
carton). An animal that is fed well will taste good.
Foie gras is an easy target for American animal activists because there are no
foie gras “boards,” no foie gras “unions.” Manufacturers hire no foie gras
activists and there are three major American foie gras producers, not three
thousand. Very few American consumers are even affected by this
“controversy”: the French make about 70% of all of the foie gras in the
world and they eat about 85% of it.
In my home and at my restaurants I offer only farm raised, organic protein
and produce, and while I think the general purpose behind the foie gras bans
(limiting animal torture) is commendable, the whole phenomenon seems very mis-directed. If the commotion were aimed at, say, the Cattleman’s
Association or the National Pork Board—or better yet, to the FDA- perhaps
we could begin to trust in the words “organic” and “farm-raised” or maybe
identify the parts of the pre-packaged, pink-dyed, anonymously slaughtered
animal in the grocery store (or better yet, serve it to our children).
I am a chef, though, and not a hunter. Barring going into the wild and
personally killing the food I serve for dinner, I see no completely humane
way to eat or cook any animal.