Monday, May 12, 2014

Coop Supplier D’Artagnan Represents Foie Gras Producer


Two Coop vendors recently went head-to-head in a lawsuit over the meaning of the word "humane." For members who want to know more about the meat they buy, here is the story.


In 2003 Coop members voted to stop buying foie gras, which consists of the diseased livers of ducks and geese who were force-fed through long, hard pipes to swell their livers eight or more times their normal size. Before 2003 we bout foie gras from vendor D'Artagnan, which sold foie gras made by Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG). The Coop still sells meat from chickens, pigs, lambs, rabbits, cows, turkeys, wild boars, and ducks from D’Artagnan

HVFG has been calling its foie gras humane, which stuck in the craw of another Coop provider, Regal Vegan, which makes Faux Gras. Regal Vegan made an unfair competition claim, arguing that by calling its product humane, Hudson Valley was stealing business from Regal Vegan’s Faux Gras -- which is free of animal products and so indisputably the more humane of the two.

HVFG eventually surrendered to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, agreeing to stop calling and labeling foie gras “humane.” Here’s how foie gras is made -- you be the judge of the accuracy of its original claim.

Producers start force-feeding ducks when they are two to three months old. Several times a day they pin each baby bird down and force a hard pipe ten inches into her esophagus. The pipe delivers way too much corn mash straight into the duck’s stomach. Every day they up the dosage, cramming more and more food into the bird. Between feedings, HVFG stuffs up to twelve birds into pens measuring four by six feet each, according to The Huffington Post. There is no water for the aquatic birds to swim or bathe in.

The force-feeding technique is hard on a duck’s body. It causes broken bones, aspiration pneumonia, infections, and a long list of other injuries.

The massive amount of nutritionally deficient food also causes problems. The producers’ goal is to induce a disease called fatty liver (which is what “foie gras” means in French), so by definition force-feeders are making the birds sick. Side effects of force-feeding include neurological damage, liver rupture, seizures, and bowel obstruction. The swollen livers compress other organs, leaving little room for the ducks to take in oxygen.

After four weeks of this, HVFG kills the surviving ducks – but 15,000 birds don’t live that long every year at HVFG alone.

D’Artagnan founder Ariane Daguin is one of foie gras’s fiercest defenders, according to GrubStreet.com. Her company distributed “Save The Foie” buttons at the James Beard Awards in 2012. D’Artagnan has gotten into foie gras trouble on its own in the past: a few years ago the New Jersey Better Business Bureau had to force D’Artagnan to stop claiming that the foie gras it supplied came from “enlarged” rather than “diseased” livers.

 

Yet Daguin staunchly defends the product, on ethical, cultural and culinary grounds. Her website describes it as “produced from Moulard ducks raised in a low-stress environment on 200 acres in the lush valley formed by the Hudson River of New York State. Their wholegrain diet consists of corn and soy and fresh clean water; no hormones or antibiotics are ever used.”

 

The recent legal victory against Hudson Valley Foie Gras shows that, despite the appealing language on her website, in the ten years since the Coop voted to boycott foie gras, the product hasn’t gotten any less horrific for the fatty livers’ owners. Nevertheless, Daguin would love for the Coop to sell her foie gras.

 

“The Coop is one of my best customers,” she told the Linewaiters’ Gazette in 2010. “I was kind of upset that they never ordered my foie gras. I guess I should be grateful for what we have here.”

Piper, on behalf of the Animal Welfare Committee

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