New York’s ban on fancy foie gras is a good deal for ducks… but a big blow to farmers

New York City’s foie gras ban pleased animal rights activists, but also gutted the economy of Sullivan County, New York.


January 20, 2020

Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

A few months ago, New York City banned foie gras — the luxury liver dish made by force-feeding ducks — at restaurants across the city. 

Following in the footsteps of other places like California, the UK, India, and Israel (and companies including Whole Foods and Postmates), New York’s ban was hailed as a victory by animal-rights activists, who have long considered foie gras inhumane.

But the ban also had the unintended consequence of gutting the economy of the rural county in upstate New York that produces nearly all of America’s foie gras.

In Sullivan County, New York, liver isn’t a luxury… 

It’s the bedrock of the local economy. 

The 2 main foie gras farms sell $38m of the fatty livers per year, employing 400 workers (mostly immigrants) and driving demand for local machine shops, feed farms, and farmworker-frequented restaurants. 

But once the ban goes into effect in 2022, that chain could collapse

Most foie gras farmworkers (many of whom also live on the farms) have few, if any other, employment options if the industry goes belly up. 

And to make matters worse, since both farms host residential drug treatment centers, their closure could cause a decrease in the already scarce medical resources available to combat the opioid epidemic in Sullivan County.

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