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Everything posted by derricks

  1. The report comes down on the side of the idea that gavage represents poor animal welfare, but doesn't call for a ban because of economic factors. It strongly encourages producers to look for alternate means for fattening the birds (and there's a good chance that the EU will call for a ban when the issue comes up again--2020? 2015?--it was pretty close by all accounts). I don't remember the reasoning; it's been close to a year since I last read it. But, like I said, I don't think their arguments hold as well for facilities without battery cages. They don't. Nor does La Belle/Bobo or Sonoma Foie Gras. edited to clarify EU's stance
  2. Not yet. One of them seems to be underway, but it's very tiny and still developing its product. I don't think they're ready to "go public" yet, but I don't know. I heard about them from a chef from the area, and I'm trying to get more info, because, you know, I've become a foie gras geek of sorts. The other one is someone who's thinking of starting one; I met him the other night and need to follow up. He's got the geese (geese! in the U.S.! that would be something), and he knows someone who has the gavage knowledge, but I think it will be a little time yet.
  3. Probably obvious to all, but that would be American producers. Two new French producers is probably not all that newsworthy.
  4. Curiously, amidst all this talk of banning foie gras, I've recently heard of two operations starting or thinking about getting started. Still very small levels, but an interesting side note for the moment.
  5. A valid point. But I wouldn't classify it as hypocrisy so much as ignorance. PETA running a kill shelter is hypocrisy; I just think most people don't really understand how their eggs got to them. And I think that stems from a deliberate effort by agribusiness to keep that information out of the public eye. Even those who try to avoid such products are misled: Your eggs may be organic and free-range, but the birds were still debeaked and force-molted. Or perhaps its a feeling of futility. Consumers and legislators don't feel like they have any power to change egg and pork production, but here is one thing they can do. Of course, that presumes that people have heard of foie gras, which is obviously one of its biggest problems (that and it's easy to anthropomorphize the process). The EU investigatory group argued that because the ducks couldn't engage in "normal" activities (within the universe of livestock animals), it constituted poor welfare. But I thought their case was much weaker without battery cages (which is why they requested a ban on them). But even they, with their noticeable anti-foie-gras bias, had to acknowledge that the few experiments that have tried to measure stress in foie gras birds couldn't come up with any chemical indications that the birds are stressed during gavage. And while the anti-foie-gras camp can dismiss this as saying that studies can show anything (and let's be clear, those experiments were done by agricultural facilities in southwest France, which have a vested interest in keeping foie gras alive and well), I've not seen any studies showing the reverse.
  6. I think it's worth pointing out explicitly what most of us know implicitly: Politicians and mainstream media outlets aren't going to go after laws that negatively impact their corporate leash holders. As long as your local paper runs ads for sales on pork chops and eggs, you're not going to see them running exposes about the pork and poultry industries. As long as agriculture is funding political campaigns, you're not going to see laws get passed about the inhumane conditions we all know about. Foie gras doesn't have a multibillion dollar industry behind it, so it has little in the way of lobbying power. I often defend animal rights groups when people say, "Why can't they focus on where the real problems are?" They do. In fact, foie gras is a minor fight for most of them. But the powers-that-be aren't going to touch the campaigns against mainstream livestock with a ten-foot pole. And yes, the standard quip about preferring to be a foie gras duck over a Tyson chicken is apt, but the fact that one genre of livestock-rearing is unethical does not, in fact, have any bearing on the ethics of another genre of livestock-rearing. I'd rather be a goat at Redwood Hill Farms than a foie gras duck. Does that mean that goat cheese is good but foie gras is bad?
  7. Currently, the only way to produce foie gras that consumers will be happy with is to force-feed the ducks. There are gentler and less gentle ways to do this, but eventually there's a tube, and the duck is being forced to digest more than it would on its own. People are researching other ways to do this, but so far, nothing substantial has come of it (Waitrose in the UK claimed to have, but they're no longer running that operation and they were very close-mouthed about letting me talk to any chefs who might have used it and normal foie gras.) It seems unlikely that anyone would consider lobotomies an okay alternative (though it does seem to work). It raises the question that perhaps we could learn to like livers that were merely fattier, rather than inflated ten to twelve times with fat. But that would have to be an adjustment. As a general rule, ducks are less likely to come to the feeder than geese. There's little scientific or anecdotal evidence about ducks coming to the feeder willingly, but there's a sufficient amount of both for geese.
  8. derricks

    Lodi Wineries?

    The current issue of The Wine News (June/July 2005) has an article I wrote about Lodi. The main feature mentions a number of wineries, but a sidebar lists restaurants and hotels that your co-worker might find useful. Wineries I would definitely visit: Jessie's Grove St. Amant (needs an appointment) Michael David Peirano Numbers for all these should be available on the Lodi site Mary mentions. One can download the whole "wine tasting brochure" as a PDF. The visitor's center pours a rotating selection of Lodi wines, and I'm pretty sure all the area's bottles can be purchased there (most, at any rate).
  9. I've been to Monet, but it was a while ago. My memory is that it was quite good, but I can't offer specifics. I was only disappointed because one of my dining companions got the last pheasant pie.
  10. I recommend Amuse. Here's my take from last year.
  11. Here's an alternate view. Many of the bloggers I know who were mentioned in those various articles report that their readership spiked after the article (whichever one) and quickly regressed to normal levels, maybe with a slight increase. That was certainly true of my numbers after the Chron article (I _had_ to look!). But now, a couple months later, I regularly get the same number of readers _consistently_ that I did during the Chron spike. Why? How? I don't know. But I'll take regular readers over a blip any day. I had one person comment recently (when I did a post wishing my wife a happy anniversary) that she remembered when we left on our honeymoon. That was two years ago! That's amazing, and just about one of the coolest comments anyone's ever left on my site. Publicity's nice and all, but I don't know that it nets you what you'd expect.
  12. There is, of course, an irony here. While people accept that bloggers might use their blogs simply as a means for practicing the craft, they also demand that the writing be top-notch. Curious. What does practice mean, then? For instance, I'm trying to define for myself an individual style for tasting notes (mostly inspired by David Schildkecht's great notes). So I've started regularly posting tasting notes on my blog. Many are still of the "conservative wine magazine" style--the style I had to learn when I did "serious" tasting notes for the first time. But I'm putting them up there, rolling them about, seeing what I like and don't like. It's practice. Practice with different styles, practice putting my notes about any given wine into a usable context. I told my readers up front what I'm doing, though many will have forgotten and many others will be coming into this midstream. Such is life. Are they badly written? Well, I hope not. I edit them of course (arguably, my blog is now more about practicing self-editing than it is about writing; I typically spend more time on the former than the latter), but that's not to say they're in the style I eventually want to develop. They're not. So what then?
  13. I had to stop looking at my numbers all the time; it's too easy to get addicted. But when I do peek in every now and again, I get roughly 2000 unique visitors every day, according to my ISP. I suspect I have 3-4K actual readers, since most people know my posting habits well enough to know I only post every few days. I have another 200 or so through bloglines, a web-based aggregator that looks like one IP address despite the many subscribers. I don't know about other, similar, services. Chocolate and Zucchini, probably the most widely read active food blog, gets, I think, around 5000 unique visitors a day (though I don't know what tracking system she uses; see below). I would argue that while those numbers are small relative to the local paper, probably a larger portion of my readers actually cares about what I write. (Mini numbers rant: Numbers are suspect. Never just believe numbers you read. I hear that Typepad's built-in tracking system doesn't distinguish unique visitors at all; if you visit a site twice in one day, it looks like two visitors. A lot of people use that. My ISP tracks unique visitors -- as well as the pageviews Typepad uses -- but doesn't differentiate between unique visitors across days. So it says I get ~60000 unique visitors a month, since 2000 x 30 = 60K. Never mind that someone who checks my site daily accounts for 30 of those.)
  14. Like Carolyn, I mostly use my blog as a way to practice writing. I didn't use to mention it when I pitched; now I do (of course, my readership has grown since then as well). I've not gotten any writing assignments because an editor loves my blog. But when my first real editor bit, he wanted to see writing samples, and I sent him some of my better posts (he was critical of them, but a) that's his nature and b) I got the assignment anyway). Carolyn's point about a platform is also a good one. I'm working on a book proposal, and you better believe it will mention my small legion of devoted readers.
  15. I'd love to do a taste test some day. I haven't tried any of the most-humane Label Rouge foie gras (at least not knowingly; I've only known about it explicitly for the last year or so), but it would be interesting to compare it side-by-side to HVFG, SFG, a Canadian foie, and an "industrial" French producer. Obviously some of you have done portions of this, but I haven't. Something to look forward to
  16. Did you notice if it had a screw/worm attached to the crank to push the food down? I've heard of that kind of apparatus, though I've not seen it except in pics. (btw, your account was certainly the most amusing of the however many stories of visits I read while researching my piece)
  17. And this, of course, is the ultimate question. You can get "fat" livers from ducks and geese by just giving them access to lots of food. But there's a noticeable difference. A 500-gram goose liver is smaller than most modern duck foie gras, just to provide perspective. Consumers currently don't accept a "fat liver" as foie gras. Perhaps this is just a matter of educating them, or as docsconz implies, getting them(us) used to the reality that that's all we're likely to have in thirty years. But in order to push past the metabolic shift that happens to make foie gras, you have to use the tube (and Bux is correct that even traditional producers have always used sticks to push the food down, though most now use a motor to do the work). I don't know that you can argue a size difference from technique: Hudson Valley uses this "more traditional" approach and their duck livers get as big as if not bigger than Sonoma Foie Gras's more mechanically fed ducks. I think I said this upthread, but the more traditional approach isn't necessarily "more humane." Injuries and unplanned fatalities are demonstrably higher (roughly double) in traditional approaches vs. modern "quick feeding" systems. The birds are held for longer, and are thus more prone to damage as they squirm (from the restraint, if not the gavage). But which looks better?
  18. The ethical debate about foie gras goes back demonstrably until 1200 or 1300 or so (I'm not near my notes), and possibly back to 200 B.C. (again, working off memory). A Jewish mystic had a dream about that time (200B.C.) that a later rabbi (1200 or 1300) interpreted to mean the Jews would have to pay a price in the afterlife for the way they had treated the geese for foie gras (for context: ducks were barely used until 1950 or so, when the Mulard was developed. also note that Jews were the main producers of foie gras for close to 2000 years). Of course, they didn't have cable TV, widely published newsletters, or the Internet in which to spread the debate. Not to mention cameras and video cameras to show the process to a population. Just to say that the debate is only "new" in terms of its volume and dispersion.
  19. One could probably track down the mystery by writing Slow Food in Bra and asking them. They have(had?) a tasting room set up with this technology. Some friends of mine stumbled on it and told us about it long before Vino Venue set up. They thought it was very odd for Slow Food to be showing off this mechanized wine dispenser with no people around or anything.
  20. Or at least you could. Israel recently decided to disallow production (there was some back and forth, but I think the ban kicked in earlier this year or is about to kick in, depending on what the last decision was). That doesn't change your argument, just clarifying things.
  21. Well, this is off-topic now, but since it came up earlier. My photographer re-put up his photos of SFG when we visited so he could take shots for my AoE piece. He mistyped Sonoma, but we'll forgive him anyway. Some comments: He owns the copyright on all these. No reproduction without his permission. He wanted me to point out that he spent the whole time in the gavage building close to retching. Not because of the gavage but because of the smell. Ducks stink. Michael Saunders has a fantastically visceral description of this in From Here You Can't See Paris. Most people adjust to this within twenty to thirty seconds. Not Chris, who seems to be particularly sensitive. These are all the photos, not even the subset he sent to the editor as choices. Quality varies, which is why he made up a subset for Ed in the first place (and I have a subset of those for myself--makes for an interesting screen saver). They're (primarily) in black and white deliberately. AoE prints B & W pictures, as some of you probably know. He points out that this makes them look like bootlegging pictures from Prohibition or something like that. The chickens are not associated with Sonoma Foie Gras. They're from a nearby facility. Gavage pics start on page 6 or 7. Read all that? The pics are here.
  22. I visited twice in 2004. I strongly doubt SFG was using battery cages before that, but I can't speak to the rest of their conditions. Both Guillermo and Delmas suggested that the only major changes since SFG started were relocating to near Stockton and switching from Muscovies to Mulards. And other people I spoke with (George West at UC Davis) described pretty much the layout I've seen. No, that's 25 sq. ft. in area (5 ft. x 5 ft.) I'd argue the ducks were cozy but not cramped. They could move around, but when they all clustered together (which they tend to do), they took up somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 the space. I certainly got to take pictures on both trips. Mine aren't that good, but I'll ask my photographer if I can share the link to his lo-res pics. (and there are some in the article, but they don't necessarily give you a good impression of the pen size). One thing to remember is that photographers visiting is fairly disruptive to their operation. The pens are separated by a corridor that fits the feeding machine and one person standing abreast. I think Delmas told me that they let in lots of people during 2004 (for obvious reasons) and it really fouled up their routines, so they want to limit visitors and get back to business.
  23. I think CT's uses pretty well-raised meat, like, for instance, Chez P and TFL. In those restaurants, they'll tell you where they get the meat and you can look up the info yourself. Of course that also leads to menus that offer "Jackson Ranch Quail stuffed with Hamilton Farm Prunes and Sonoma Foie Gras on a Bed of Native American, hand-harvested wild rice and mushrooms collected by Jane Smith of Woodinville, WA" or something like that. I think that's an acceptable tactic; some (many) consumers may not care, but for those who do, they can look up the information for themselves. Of course, calling a competing chef dumb and fat in a very public setting makes it tough to not think of him as insulting.
  24. Battery cages are common enough for duck foie gras--just not in the U.S. The EU has imposed a ban on them starting in 2010 (it's slightly more complicated than that, but that's the gist). Will Trotter start carrying foie gras again then? And yes, it used to be common to nail feet to the floor and blind the geese as well, based on a theory that parallels modern veal production--animals that move less are fatter and more tender. As you say, lo and behold that turns out not to be a good idea when the animal in question can't even be looked at wrong without producing a poor-quality foie.
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