California just became the first state to ban foie gras. Protestors here rallied against Bed-Stuy’s Do Or Dine for featuring a foie gras donut on their menu. But is foie really Food Enemy Number One?
Sure, the process sounds questionable: ducks are force fed so that their livers enlarge, making them fatty, extra rich (and, proponents would say, extra delicious). But Michael Ginor, the president and co-founder of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (granted, not an unbiased source), told Grub Street that our fear of foie is misguided. “I urge everybody to get educated on the subject. The animal rights propaganda is very different from the truth … ducks have a very different anatomy than humans do. And there’s no stress, there’s no pain, there’s no disease being caused.”
The Huffington Post is happy to tell us how to realign our guilt with their list of “8 Foods More Cruel and Harmful Than Foie Gras.” Here’s their ‘Bad’ list, and some of our suggestions for local, sustainable ‘Good’ alternatives.
The HuffPo list includes three fish.
- Bluefin Tuna: While offering one of the finest raw cuts of fish on the planet, the Bluefin is totally overfished. Give ‘em a break to, you know, reproduce for a minute.
- Shark Fin: Shark Fin soup is a traditional Chinese delicacy, but it’s also just plain ridiculous. Chopping the fin off a live shark just for some soup? Give us a break! Sometimes you’ve gotta let tradition go…especially when it’s this bad for ocean ecosystems.
- Farmed Salmon: Seemed like a great idea at the time, right? But farmed salmon has shown itself to be much more susceptible to diseases, which are now crossing into the wild salmon population. Oops.
Looking for alternatives? For tuna, look for local, long line-caught Yellowfin Tuna. Shark fin soup? Do you really need an alternative (because we’re not gonna recommend powdered rhino horn)? For salmon, go wild. Sign up for Iliamna Fish Company‘s annual CSA – Brooklynite Christopher Nicolson fishes wild Alaskan sockeye salmon each summer with his family and ships a portion of the catch back to Brooklyn. Or keep an eye out for flash-frozen wild Alaskan salmon, which seems to be popping up in more and more places (including Trader Joe’s and Fairway). Many supermarkets and fishmongers have fresh wild Alaskan salmon available when it’s in season (late spring-early fall).
In general, you’ll do well buying freshly-caught local fish from the fishermen at many of the local Greenmarkets in spring, summer and fall. And check out Sea-to-Table, the Clinton Hill-based outfit that sources sustainably caught fish directly from fishermen working in well-managed fisheries. They provide fish to restaurants across the city, including Palo Santo in Park Slope.
The next section of HuffPo’s ‘Bad’ list is comprised primarily of junk food and indulgences.
- Palm Oil: Non-sustainably grown palm oil (and that’s most of it) is super bad for the rainforest, and processed foods use it by the truckload.
- Junk Food Marketed at Kids: Heard of the obesity epidemic? This isn’t helping.
- Chocolate and Coffee from Child Slavery Regions: …that one’s pretty obvious.
Luckily, we don’t have to give up all of our favorite things. Palm oil tends to be found in processed foods–make your cookies at home or buy from a baker devoted to real ingredients, like Robicelli’s, and eat them guilt-free.
Cut out the packaged junk food snacks and get Junior a cone from Ample Hills (Prospect Heights), Blue Marble (Prospect Heights and Cobble Hill), Van Leeuwen (Greenpoint and Boerum Hill), or Culture (Park Slope), all Brooklyn-based artisanal outfits making their own ice cream (and in Culture’s case, yogurt) with the finest local dairy.
Fine & Raw, Mast Brothers, Nunu and Rakka Chocolate all make seriously badass chocolate with meticulously-sourced cacao here in the BK, and Crop to Cup, Stumptown, Cafe Grumpy, Blue Bottle, Brewklyn Grind, and others can get your your java with a clean conscience. If in doubt, just ask.
The last big category is meat.
- Feedlot Cattle: Pollan and Safran Foer literally wrote the books on this one. Too many diseases, antibiotics, and sanitation problems to count. Just plan nasty on every level.
- Factory-Farmed Chicken: More of the same. Tiny cages and unclean conditions make for very sad cluckers.
Need happy meat? Pick up some locally raised beef, lamb, pork, and fowl from Fleishers, The Meat Hook, or Marlow & Daughters. They all deal exclusively with local, pastured animals and have the kind of chickens you’d actually recognize as a chicken. They can even tell you how to cook something you haven’t made before–ever gotten that kind of advice from one of those shrink wrapped styrofoam meat trays?
Eating ethically doesn’t have to be hard. Especially in Brooklyn. You just might find that it tastes better too.
As for foie…you’re going to have to make your own call on that one. If you opt in, you’ll probably want to try that donut.