I have followed with interest the Foie Gras debate that has raged in the letters to the editor section for weeks now.
I have resisted weighing in on the subject until now, but after reading the most recent anti foie gras opinions, I feel compelled to offer a less hysterical viewpoint.
Foie Gras is a unique food that has achieved both notoriety and high esteem among people of all social standings which has slowly made its way from the banquets of the Egyptian pharaohs to the white tablecloth establishments of today.
Spurred by some of my customers aversion to Foie Gras several years ago, and my own interest in agriculture and farming I visited six different duck farms in Sonoma County and the Central Valley of California. I came away from trip reassured that the animals were clean, healthy and treated with respect.
Alderman Joe Moore, who introduced the resolution to ban Foie Gras in Chicago ( called silly by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ) acknowledges that he has never visited a Foie Gras farm and isnt sure if he has ever eaten the food.
The methods used to produce Foie Gras have concerned people since ancient times, and so farmers have constantly refined their techniques. In doing so, they have discovered that the way to decrease goose and duck mortality and increase the average weight of the livers is to treat the birds delicately.
Foie Gras farms operate in a tiny niche of the enormous poultry industry. From a strategic standpoint they provide an easy target for animal rights activists: they are small and lack expensive lobbyists. Their main product is perceived as a luxury good, like fur, and many believe that, after extracting the liver, the rest of the bird is left unused. In reality, a greater portion of the Foie Gras duck is used than any other bird raised for human consumption. The breasts become magrets; the legs and wings are used in confits and to make rillettes; the fat is an excellent cooking medium; chefs use the carcasses to prepare stocks; and the tongues, feet, testicles and intestines are sold to Asian markets. Feathers are sold for down.
The second issue that animal rights groups focus on is the method of feeding and the effect it has on the birds liver. Waterfowl are not humans, however, and a practice that could cause us grave harm or death has little effect on a goose or duck. The birds anatomy is fundamentally different from ours and reflects their natural environment and their twice annual long distance migration. While preparing for their migrations, the birds must gorge, to amass the energy reserves of fat needed for the long flight. Ducks and geese possess livers that have specially evolved to become the main repository for this fat. If food is abundant, they will eat as much of it as possible as quickly as possible. This may include small fish, plants, and insects, some of them with spines and sharp legs. In the Foie Gras duck feeding process, farmers are merely taking advantage of the birds natural eating habits and physiology.
The imagery of inserting a tube into the birds esophagus can be perceived as cruel. A waterfowl throat, however, is not like the throat of a human. The lining of the duck and goose esophagus is composed of fibrous protein cells that resemble fingernails, allowing large pieces of food to pass safely. Because of this anatomical feature, the tube creates no discomfort for the birds. Feeding is also aided by the fact that the birds esophagi are extremely flexible. Near the bottom, their throats widen into a simple crop where the food is stored before being passed on to the stomach. During feeding, the smooth tube of the funnel is pushed down to the crop. The feed ends up here, and the bird is immediately released so that it can waddle off to drink.
A resolution to oppose force feeding by the American Veterinary Medical Associations House of Delegates (initiated in part by propaganda about how inhumane the process was) was unanimously defeated in July 2005 after visits to Foie Gras farms by a group of their members.
The mortality rate of Foie Gras ducks is 3-3.5 % compared to 5-20% for poultry overall.
There also needs to be some perspective on where foie gras lies on the spectrum of meat and poultry production in the United States. The vast majority of the meat and poultry we eat comes from animals which have been raised in what have been called factory farms, under conditions that are far less humane than those of the conditions at a Foie Gras farm. Perhaps those who are concerned about the treatment of animals should focus more on the meat and poultry that sustain most of our population, instead of Foie Gras, which is an infinitesimal portion of our food supply.
Youll notice that I dismiss out of hand the notion offered by the reader from California that we abstain from killing and eating animals entirely.
As a professional cook for almost 30 years and the son and grandson of butchers, I know where I stand in the food chain.
I for one will continue to enjoy Foie Gras (occasionally) while it is still my choice to do so.
Ted Cizma Williamsburg
Drop This, He Says
Its a terrible experience at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) to drop a class.
When the first test was handed back, I found out what the class was going to be like in a way no syllabus could explain. I had done all the homework and worked hard each night to improve my grade in a class I had passed with a 2.0 the previous year. I was putting in about 3 hours each day on the homework. I did the test like the homework. However, when the test came back it was obvious it didnt matter if I improved, I was going to receive the same grade.
Lets do the math. Just roughly estimate 10 weeks x 5 days of class x 3 hours on homework per day. That equals about 150 hours of just one class homework just to get the same grade as last year. Of course Id want to drop it.
It seemed obvious that the college would give me a refund. Its the first test; certainly it would be understandable that a student changed their opinion about the class due to a discovery in the grading technique. They cant expect the teachers to be able to describe their grading method perfectly. The syllabus I got said what percentage of my grade the test would be. The test had an X on a problem with the word illogical, when I had used the method from the homework. The syllabus didnt warn me about that.
The request for a refund was denied on a basis that it would be chaotic for the college if students could do that after the first test. So they chose to sacrifice what would be good for me as an individual/customer based on a policy for the good of them as an institution/business. I offered a compromise, how ever much money I cost them could be deducted from the refund. They held tight to their policy regardless of the partial refund suggestion.
After I exhausted my desire to fight about money in two days, I agreed to just drop the class. Then I found out I might have to drop with a record, replacing my old grade with a W. Which would in turn mean I might owe back some money to financial aid for their investment in me the previous year. So now I might be stuck owing money or busting myself to get a grade I already had.
Im still waiting to hear back if I will get to keep my old grade.
Zach Tubbs TC
One Woman‘s Vote
While I concede that Mr. Foster makes some good points in his Random Thoughts article, I must point out that he is implying that any female presidential candidate will have to be twice as strong and twice as accomplished as any male candidate to win, while still retaining a reserved image. Now, I live in the real world, and I regret to admit this is most definitely a reality for women in politics, but for a change, wouldnt it be nice if voters considered Hillary not for her gender, but for her um politics?
Why is she criticized for laughing, or not laughing, or crying, or not crying, when male candidates can and DO employ these emotional displays in their campaigns with impunity? To say that Hillary Clinton isnt good enough, or experienced enough to be president is complete bull. Remember JFK? And isnt there some controversy over Barak Obama not having enough experience to be president? It doesnt seem to be affecting his popularity that much.
People have to realize that Hillarys competitors and the media are taking advantage of our societys inherent and insidious sexist attitudes, and take the mud slinging with a grain of salt. Ask yourselves, am I judging Hillary Clinton maybe even a little bit harsher than I would a male candidate?
Personally, I hope for a day when presidential candidates find their dignity and dont turn on each other like rabid wolves just to win the presidency.
S. Maglothin Petoskey
Seniors Dig Express Too
I pick up Northern Express on Monday morning at my local library and it jump starts my week. More and more of us seniors welcome your investigative reporter, Anne Stanton, as she digs beneath the front and back page media hype on local and national concerns.
I feel young when I read what young people are wearing and where they shop (but lets get them out of the box and into local stores). What I appreciate the most is the distance you keep with your advertisers. I support these good local business people and read their ads seriously. So many of our free local newspapers are made up of articles written by the advertisers. Though these often have good information, I always feel a little cheated when I see the advertisers on the same page as their articles.
In all, thank you for a hip newspaper whose readers may be much older than you think.
Shirley Murray TC