Foie gras sparks controversy

Foie gras critic Billy Howard says goose liver is unhealthful.

Foie gras critic Billy Howard says goose liver is unhealthful.

Photo/Sage Leehey

For more information about Foie Gras Free Reno, visit, and for more about Mirepoix USA, visit

A black truffle and foie gras tasting was planned last month to take place at Chez Louie in the Nevada Museum of Art but was moved to a private banquet room in Circus Circus after Foie Gras Free Reno (FGFR) protested it.

Founding organizer of FGFR Billy Howard said the group contacted the museum for more information about the tasting after seeing an advertisement for it. Both Howard and Mark Estee of Chez Louie said that the museum staff didn’t know much about the event and that Chez Louie had scheduled it on its own. After protests from FGFR, Mirepoix USA—the Reno company hosting the tasting—cancelled it and rescheduled it at Circus Circus.

Mirepoix founder and owner Laurel Pine said she sells many products, not only foie gras, and the tasting was not centered on foie gras either, though the company does emphasize the product (its web address:

“Really, the focus of the event was a truffle tasting,” Pine said. “It was about black truffles, which are at their prime season right now. They happen to pair very well with foie gras, and so three of the five courses did contain fois gras, but all five of them were based around black truffles. That’s one thing that I don’t even know if people realize, that foie gras was secondary to truffles.”

Foie gras is made by infusing duck liver with fat over a short period of time by feeding ducks cornmeal and fat through a pipe.

“The animal is in extreme stress, and I have to say that anybody who thinks that kind of sickening torture is OK or fine and dandy, I really think should have their heads examined,” Howard said.

Pine does not believe stock undergoes cruelty at Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York, where she purchases her foie gras.

“If I did believe that, I wouldn’t sell it,” Pine said. “It’s a very, very tiny industry, but [Hudson Valley] really have done a lot to conform to certain farming standards to create the best possible environment, you know, considering the animals are raised to be slaughtered for food truthfully, like any other farm that raises animals for food.”

Howard said the controversy over foie gras is “no trivial matter,” noting bans on foie gras in the United Kingdom, California and various other places around the world. But it is legal in Nevada at this time, although Howard said FGFR is working towards a goal of having a ban, like California’s, in the area.

“It’s controversial, and it’s super unhealthy as well,” Howard said. “That’s why I refer to it as junk food, haute cuisine junk food. Nobody should really be eating it for their health.”

Pine said this event opens up an important discussion about “when an activity or product is legal, under what conditions should that activity or product be banned.”

Estee also believes that this controverswy should open up a larger discussion.

“The real cruelty is to other animals that are raised in factory farms,” Estee said. “Foie is an easy target. One percent of the one percent eats it. I am more concerned with the bacon that billions eat every day. But you know what? I don’t tell people what to eat and I would not. We vote with our money. Don’t like, don’t eat it.”