NYC's foie gras ban is overturned

The 2019 city law outlawing the delicacy violates a state measure prohibiting urban areas from legislating what farmers can grow. The ban was originally scheduled to take effect on Nov. 25.
New York's geese growers prevailed. / Photo: Shutterstock

The state of New York has blocked New York City from going ahead with a ban on the sale of foie gras by restaurants, saying the measure violates an obscure law that prohibits urban areas from dictating what farmers can grow and market.  

According to the announcement from the Catskill Foie Gras Collective, a coalition formed to avert the ban, the decision by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets ensures the delicacy remains available statewide.

An estimated 1,000 restaurants in the Big Apple sold the goose liver pate before the pandemic took hold. Some had vowed they’d give away the delicacy if they were prohibited from selling it.

Under a law passed by New York City in 2019, sales of foie gras were to be halted in the metro area on Nov. 25, 2022. Proponents argued that the production of the dish is inhumane because it involves force-feeding geese to fatten their livers. Geese and duck farmers denied the cruelty allegations.

The Foie Gras Collective convinced a State Supreme Court judge in late September to issue a temporary stay of enforcement until a court heard complaints from the group that the city’s action was illegal.

The agriculture department’s ruling negated the need for a court ruling.

“We are extremely grateful that the department has taken this action, as hundreds of Sullivan County farm worker jobs were hanging in the balance,” said Marcus Henley, a spokesperson for the Foie Gras Collective.

Much of the state’s foie gras is produced in the Hudson Valley, the rich agricultural area that runs north from just above New York City. It encompasses Sullivan and a number of other counties on both sides of the Hudson River.

Agriculture-department officials decided that the ban violated Agriculture and Markets Law 305, an ordinance that expressly forbids non-agricultural areas from legislating what farmers produce. The measure was apparently intended to keep urban areas from forcing growers to cultivate products that don’t make economic sense.

“On a broader scale, the order stops local municipalities from establishing a dangerous precedent of dictating to us what farmers can grow and what people can eat,” said Henley. “It’s great news for farmers and fine diners everywhere.”

California halted sales of foie gras on July 1, 2012. A court challenge by farmers in that state resulted in consumers being able to buy the delicacy from retail vendors whose birds were raised out of state. But the prohibition on sales by restaurants remained in place.

Chicago banned foie gras sales in 2006 but rescinded the law two years later.

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