Foie gras and Illegal Immigrants

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

The other day, we were doing one more time what on Sunday will become illegal in California: eating foie gras in a restaurant. Pan seared foie gras “traditionally raised in Sonoma, California,” served with poached local apricots. I’d go to jail for this anytime. We were sitting at the edge of San Francisco, looking at the Bay and the Bay Bridge draped across it, and we were talking—when we weren’t preoccupied by the divine, unctuous foie gras—about sweet corn and illegal immigrants.

Foie gras is a dish the Greeks already enjoyed, and I don’t mean the austerity Greeks under Prime Minister Giorgios Papandreou, but the Greeks that fought off the Persians. And it’s one of the many paradoxes in California—a state that has absolutely everything except a decent government and a balanced budget. Lobbied by well-meaning people, I suppose, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his infinite wisdom, signed a law in 2004 that made the sale and production of products derived from force-fed birds illegal. But he gave us some time to adjust to this harsh new life: the law wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2012. OK, it’s banned in other countries too—Italy, the UK, and Germany for example—and Chicago experimented with a ban for a couple of years.

Force-feeding hapless geese and ducks—gavage as it’s called—is certainly gruesome, but so is just about anything else that has to do with meat. Ever watch an orca hunt and eat a sea lion? It’s brutal out there, and the food chain knows no mercy and has no human sentiments. We use drones to bomb people in distant countries, but when it comes to the sensuous pleasure of two slices of foie gras, we get squeamish.

A lugubrious moment: eating the final but to-die-for products of a mini-industry that had been exterminated by the government; and California still has double-digit unemployment. There were a number of us. The guy across from me was in charge of the wine. He knew his way around Bay Area vintners, was a farmer, and had a degree in economics.

He was talking about sweet-corn and the harvest that had started some time ago. If you’re a city guy like me, listening to a farmer over superb wine and foie gras is fascinating. Sweet corn, the result of careful crossbreeding, is very fragile, he said. Unlike other varieties of corn, it has to be harvested by hand because machines damage it. And it has a short shelf life. To extend the shelf life—the secret to doing business with big customers like Costco and Safeway—you have to harvest it at night. If you cool sweet corn from 72° to 34°, it lasts a lot longer than if you have to cool it from 107° to 34°.

One of the biggest challenges, he said, was lining up the farmworkers, 75 of them a day during harvest season. Subcontractors hired and took care of the workers, but every year it was getting more difficult. Most, if not all of them, were illegally in the country, he said. They worked from 7 PM till 3 AM under floodlights. It was piecework, averaging about $15 per hour. But with the crackdown on illegal immigrants, finding enough workers has become difficult, he said.

“Can’t you hire some people from Oakland or Stockton who’ve been out of a job for years?” someone asked.

“We tried, but man, no one wants to do this kind of work. It’s hard. After an hour, they give up ... if they even come out in the first place.”

“But 15 bucks an hour, that’s pretty good, compared to minimum wage.”

“They don’t have the skills, the stamina. You’ve got to be very productive to make this kind of money.”

Pink clouds drifted across the evening sky. A group of girls rollerbladed by. Life was good.

“And if the government ever gets rid of the illegals, or if they get scared and go back to Mexico on their own,” he said as he poured everyone some more wine, “we have to shut down our farm.”

And that’s where we all had conflicted thoughts. We loved sweet corn and couldn’t envision summer without it—and whatever we thought about illegal immigrants, we did want to have our sweet corn.

“Everyone who grows anything that has to be picked by hand,” he said, “has the same problem.”

It didn’t take long for the conversation to link this issue to the demise of the California foie gras industry, and which government would be willing to kill yet another and this time much bigger industry, and people wondered about our politicians who were now, more than ever, the best that money could buy. But it isn’t just a US phenomenon. It’s universal, as we can see in this hilarious video by my two favorite Australian comedians, Clarke & Dawe,.... “The Key to Good Governance.”

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monad's picture

You are free to do as you're told.

hardcleareye's picture

If you want sweet corn why don't you grow your own?  It is not that difficult, add some canning skills and you can have it all year long!

sangell's picture

I really can't weep for gourmet menus. Plenty of things to eat that do not involve illegal immigrants, force feeding a bird just to set a swank table. San Franciscan food snobbery doesn't travel well and I am from San Francisco meaning I grew up in the City and Ernies and Trader Vics were the snob restaurants.

IthinkMyHeadsGonnaExplode's picture

I feel exactly the same way.. I am also a Naitive San Franciscan and I'd rather go get something at Safeway and spend the day at Ocean Beach.

DOT's picture

I would think the high sugar varieties are mostly grown for the ethanol market. What may land on relatively few tables is minor and  very localized.

Got Corn ?

WilliamShatner's picture

A lot of the things we enjoy DO NOT NEED TO BE PICKED BY HAND!

There are ways of mechanizing the harvest process, just ask the farmers in Europe. 

Farmers in the US aren't sophisticated enough and incentivized enough to modernize their farms.

We pay farmers to not grow things, we should also pay them to modernize and thus reduce their reliance of labor and illegal immigrants.

If we insist on using hand labor then we can still get by without the illegals, we've got plenty of able-bodied people to do the work. 

Some say they are unwilling to do such physically demanding labor, others like myself say they simply are not given the proper motivation. 

Especially many who buy their food with EBT cards & food stamps.  Leaches, the lot of them.  They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and countries of origin.  The deadbeat disease knows no boundaries across the vast and rich panacea of humanity.

Time for an end to the gentler, kinder America.  Time to bring back the whip, the chain, the cattle prod, the boot and the chains of motivation. For some, that's what it takes, and if that's what it take then by God that's what it takes. 

Lednbrass's picture

Once again, another guy whose entire knowldege of agriculture comes from television and reading articles wirtten by other city tards that never grew even a single tomato plant.

At least have the courtesy to shut the fuck up when you have absolutely no knowledge of a subject you brainless fool.

Can some things be machine harvested? Yes. do others require humans? Yes.  Watching too many sci-fi shows has addled your brain.

John_Coltrane's picture

Humans, like water, take the path of least resistence.  But the problem is that the best steel comes from the hottest furnaces as Dickens first wrote.  So, a life without effort and work is truly meaningless.  Unless you've actually done concrete work (yes mixing by hoe, pouring and finishing by hand), roofing etc. you don't begin to fathom how hard, but how rewarding the final result can be.  Americans are indeed lazy in a statistical sense and I have great admiration for those Mexicans, who like other immigrants before them, are willing to work hard instead of taking the easy way out.  But if they could take the easy way out, like Welfare coddled Americans, they certainly would.  Instead of food stamps "for free" we need a labor exchange system-you pick your own food etc.  Even if it cost the state more to implement its long term benefits of instilling the work ethic would be worth it.  When something is "free" it, by definition, has no value.  Same for subsidized health care and education.   That's why they're so expensive-no competition.

Moe Howard's picture

I heard your pants fell down while the TSA was giving you the once over. You should have put that phaser through the xray machine, CPT Kirk.

world_debt_slave's picture

A another reason to leave Cali, wanted to get some 134a to refill my AC for the departure out of this shithole. But the website can't deliver this to California. Same thing happened a few years back wanting some elephant skin boots. Good riddance Cali!

Binko's picture

I just love it when employers whine that nobody wants to work the jobs they are offering. If your jobs are so unpleasant or difficult that you can't find workers then the forces of the free market SHOULD mean you will have to improve conditions or offer benefits or raise pay.

But employers don't want to do this. They want illegal subsidized labor. They want to pay people a below subsistence wage to perform miserable back-breaking labor in wretched conditions with zero benefits. Then they cry a river when the "lazy" local youth don't show up.

Lednbrass's picture

I agree in theory, in practice it is difficult for large farmers because they have to go up against the vast amounts of stuff brought in from Mexico and Central America (often labled organic lol).  They cant get the prices they need because the urban sheeple would rather buy cheap Mexican stuff at ChinaMart. Some small farmers at the market and restaurant level will continue to do well(Im in that category and trying to figure out how to best handle the opportunities being presented to me now in terms of land being offered for my use and people who want what I grow, an expansion looks to be in my future) but vast populations require vast production to sustain them.

Over time I suspect  this will choke out more and more farmers, and when some weather event causes a mass crop failure in the exporting areas and we will hopefully get a much needed culling in heavily urbanized zones. Nothing but two legged foix gras critters in most of them, force fed crap and just laying about waiting to be harvested.

This is different from what I do, but the video should give most involved in food production a chuckle. Great kids here, there are some young out there still capable of actual productive work.

Im farming and I grow it!

nscholten's picture

Force fee your fat ass you fuck.  What.. you can't find anything else to eat you lazy fat fuck

nscholten's picture

Force feed your fat ass you stupid fuck.  Fuck you can't find anything else to eat you lazy fat fuck

blindchicken's picture

What a disgusting piece of excrement from an alien posing as a human being.

ThisIsBob's picture

Lets just cut to the punch and bring back slavery.

penisouraus erecti's picture

HOLDER lied, US citizens died.

FeralSerf's picture

George Bush lied, US citizens died.  And a lot of additional Earthlings died too -- ditto in Holder's case.  Why does it or should it make any difference whether they're US citizens.  Aren't we all fellow Earthlings?  

And George wasn't the only one, by far, that lied.  Holder is a criminal and should be tried and punished for his crimes.  In the bigger picture, he is only a petty criminal.  His boss and his boss' bosses are orders of magnitude worse and should be punished accordingly.

bankruptcylawyer's picture

Wolf , it is posts like this which reflect why I like your style. Unlike the other posters on Zerohedge , save perhaps cognitive dissonance, you can write an entire post without any substance, and yet, it can still be pretty damn good at merely reflecting the zeitgeist is a beaitiful fashion. well done as usual.  :)


I think you'll be able to get black market foie gra is california, so don't you worry, the right restaurants will have it if you ask the maitre D



roadhazard's picture

I'd rather not have sweet corn. Illegal aliens do as much harm to the wage economy as bankers do to the whole economy. What do you think they would be paying with open borders, I'll tell you, a dorm and a company store using Farmer John chits. And the price to you would be the same as if it were $15 per hr.

otto skorzeny's picture

there is really no nutritional value in corn-basically its just starch. you get more calories from the butter you put on corn

JailBank's picture

Sounds like a bunch of pussies from the California need to get out of the house where Mommy and Daddy and the State provide everything. I grew up in Iowa where I once tried to turn down a job picking up rocks for a notoriuosly cheap ass farmer. My Dad kicked my ass out of the house and sent me to work that Saturday morning, not becuase I was going to get paid, but because there was no reason for me to sit around on a Saturday morning not doing shit. People got soft blame the parents.

GCT's picture

RWE I love my meat and we raise it organically.  Grass fed, no antibiotics.  Those firefighters will do fine under obamacare.  They made a choice to work there and knew before they signed up what they did and did not have.   Your typical because they made a choice to work there knowing their families did not get healthcare, we should now as usual tap other peoples wallets to pay for it. 

Those people have a choice and I did not make their choice.  They can continue to work there or quit and go find a job with benefits.  Pretty simple concept. I forgot in the USA you can make piss poor choices and not be responsible for them.  Cry me a river.  You probably have never stepped into a foreign country much less Asia and bought into the media hype.  Apple tries to cut back overtime at Foxconn and there were riots.  Not reported here of course as they are slaves according to the MSM. 



FeralSerf's picture

I see you are another that doesn't believe in Cause and Effect.  I suppose it eases your concience to fool yourself into thinking all these "people have a choice and I did not make their choice".

rwe2late's picture

I love my meat and we raise it organically.  Grass fed, no antibiotics. -GCT

Provided you also treat the farm animals well, good for you. But do not conflate what you may be doing with objections to the practices of big agribusiness, factory farms, and feedlots.

As for the firefighters, it is hardly sensible that since they don't presently have health coverage, it is unreasonable to consider ever providing coverage.

Your stated faith in Obamacare is either misplaced or attempted sarcasm (haha).

vft2212's picture

Grass fed is not exacly organically raised. Grass finished is what makes the difference. Every animal we consume can eat grass & humans smoke the stuff. When we see organic chicken we think that it is healthier but it will kill you if it hasn't been finished in grass. Know what Marie's organic chickens eat? " A pure vegetarian diet of seed". According to Marie," 75% CORN and 20% SOY". The 5% is about all that won't kill you or contribute to the healthcare problem. Force feeding is unjustifiable and that should extend to feedlots who force feed corn rather than offer grass and supported by BIG AG. Tax each dollar menu item $8 like a pack of smokes and the incidence of diabetes ( thank you CORN aka FRUCTOSE,GLUCOSE, SUGAR ) will dramatically drop ( diabetes is rarely, if ever genetic ) people will shed pounds by the 100s of millions and healthcare will not require government or further taxation of individuals. Try some WILD caught fish and next time any yuppies or grads go to their sushi joints ask the waiter "what is wild caught ". He will first tell you yes we have cod ( worst fish for the ecological system ) but you will be in shock that your hangout might have ONE fish that is real and not , like steak, just a disguised piece of corn.

Lednbrass's picture

In what sense is a cow that eats nothing but grasses not contaminated with pesticides its entire life not organic, but one stuffed with corn and antibiotics before going to to pasture is?

GCT's picture

RWE I lost faith in this country a long time ago.  I love this country but our Fascist government is taking us to the point of no return. 

rwe2late's picture

Per Wolf Richter,

It’s OK to treat animals inhumanely because “nature” is “cruel”.

Of course, since people also are animals …

Anyhow, it’s “character building”, according to prison studies.

Agribusiness requires plantation workers for big profits.

Labor laws and pesticide exposure concerns be damned.

Illegal workers are docile workers. Worker safety, wage and hour enforcement, forgetaboutit.

Desperate outsourced third world workers make the best sweatshop workers, … naturally.

Problem is, US workers aren’t desperate enough. Not enough “stamina”.

Those firefighters in Colorado, most of whom do not get health insurance coverage; they are probably all illegals.

Whoa Dammit's picture

The way ducks (used in the US instead of geese) are raised for foie gras does not seem that bad. In the article linked below,  the Village Voice set out initially to prove it is cruel, but found it to be better than a lot of other factory farm practices. Lets hope no one from Cali government ever visits a chicken or pig farm. I have never been able to afford foie gras, but support the rights of others to eat it.

To me the cruelest way animals are treated in this country is found in pets that are treated like disposable objects, wherein miilions of unwanted cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens have to be euthanized each year due to nothing but pure irresponiblity on the part of humans.


FeralSerf's picture

How is it any worse to euthanize an unwanted dog or cat than an unwanted hen or cow that is no longer profitable?  Does making the one into a food product and the throwing away of the other make the difference?  If that's true, what about horses?  They're not allowed to be killed for food because it's cruel; they can be "put down" though.  The presumed logic of this escapes me.

lower98th's picture

Depends on if you like your food from a kibble can.  Go to a horse auction sometimes, you'll be surprised how much a horse on the hoof will go for to the killer buyers.;

rwe2late's picture


so you "support" foie gras practices because it is not so bad as "other" farm practices.

Presumably , by that same logic, you "support"  the "other" farm practices because they are not so bad as what constitutes the "cruelest" form of torture in your opinion, euthanasia. 

It is one thing to object most to the worst wrongs.

It is quite another to support lesser wrongs because one believes worse exist.

Indeed, many nowadays support terrible wrongs because they only need imagine others worse.

AnAnonymous's picture

Indeed, many nowadays support terrible wrongs because they only need imagine others worse.

That is excellently well put. I take. Summed up precisely US citizens'angle: it can always be worse.

AnAnonymous's picture

Force-feeding hapless geese and ducks—gavage as it’s called—is certainly gruesome, but so is just about anything else that has to do with meat. Ever watch an orca hunt and eat a sea lion? It’s brutal out there, and the food chain knows no mercy and has no human sentiments.


Wonderful US citizen way of thinking. It takes a US citizen seasoned thinker to come to the conclusion that an orca has no human sentiments.

What a surprise.

Now, better because US citizen way of thinking is that good.

Force feeding is uncommon in the natural world. And humans force feeding animals come from human sentiment as it is for refined cooking.

Quite impressive. So while orcas have no human sentiment, that the food chain knows no sentiment, it still happens that the food chain element resulting from force feeding is born from sentiment.


Another US citizen who thinks he deserves every single cent he's made.

Kayman's picture

"Wonderful US citizen way of thinking"

Or you could use the Chinese way of thinking- kill every rare animal on the planet to help lift limp dicks or spirits.

Fuck off and take the log out of your own eye.

FeralSerf's picture

The Chinese are orders of magnitude worse in the mistreatment of animals dept.  You sir, are a hypocrite.

AnAnonymous's picture

The Chinese are orders of magnitude worse in the mistreatment of animals dept. You sir, are a hypocrite.

Maybe they are. I'd like to witness it.

Personally, I registered 23 different ways used by US citizens to dispatch cats, all showing a high research in cruelty. All of them were thought to inflict a large deal of pain to cats.

23 and I heard of 5 more that I did not witness personally so I give US citizens the benefit of the doubt on those 5.

But hey, it is as for the other things, US citizens do the body count and they are quite generous when it comes to themselves.

FeralSerf's picture

How do you dispatch a kitty before you make chop suey out of it?  Does Tabby or Felix enjoy the process?

John_Coltrane's picture

Thousands of dead Rhinos and elephants poached for the "mogical" properties of their horns give you a big thumbs up on that sentiment FeralSerf.  And surprisingily, its always to "cure" something like a limp or small dick-a phenomena apparently too prevalent in Asia but not in Africa, their country of original. Who would have thought a limp dick of some superstitous slant eyed gook would be the source of the demise of the Rhino?

Let me know when geese become an endanged species and I'll begin to worry about their treatment!  As for the so-called Mexican immigrant problem-we need a guest worker program.  Mexicans do work that no Americans will do under the current welfare state and those willing to work are the ones who should get the jobs.  Its called competition and its always a good thing economically.

AnAnonymous's picture

What has cruelty to do with endangered species?

What about free markets? Is it not the way they are supposed to work? In what way is this powder making not compatible with free market mechanics?

So far, nobody has beaten US citizens when it comes to mindless consumption. And the Chinese are given way too much credit, they are small league players.

Look up at the stars. Look at US citizens. You'll find the best of the best in this department.

vft2212's picture

and you are a racist ( Jooze? ) GROW UP

Moe Howard's picture

Are Jooze a race? I thought it was a religion all this time. I don't think it is a race, as the majority of Jews I knew in Israel were European genetically, the minority were the ones who actually had Semitic genes, of course they are genetically no different than the Muslims around them, and cannot be told apart. Of course, those real Jews have always been there, they arent converts like the European Jews.

I like to think of it more as a gang, like the bloods or crips or Latin kings, except much older and vastly more powerful.

vened's picture

And this issue is the pinnacle of Joo-deception.

For stupid Goyim like you (unless you are joo): Joo iz a relgion.  

For themselves - race.

Isn't this convinient?

lower98th's picture

Well Richter is not usually an elitist p.o.c., so this piece must be just for shock value.  Torturing an animal is the same as killing it?  We only want sweet corn if we don't have to get our hands dirty and resent that lesser humans might object to ruining their health/backs/lungs for peanuts (You don't think that farmer's illegals actually get the $15 per from the subcontractor labor management do you)? This article gets five stars in the disgust and revulsion department. 

Banjo's picture

foie gras, thank god it's being banned in CA. Pay for the natural stuff maybe $2000 per meal. Torturing birds by forced feeding, broken, bleeding windpipes. Constantly sick and bloated due to literally being force fed food constantly to get a fatty liver. Shame on you. Luckily government is there to help when the children in the lolly shop can't control their impulses. Free markets don't work that's why there have never been any because imbeciles like the above create what's known as the tragedy of the commons.

Bagbalm's picture

I sometimes buy sweet corn as cheap as a dime an ear. If they wanted to hire locals to harvest and pay them a reasonable rate I'd have no trouble paying them three times that. It is not a question of food, but rather CHEAP food.

capitallosses's picture

It was a beautiful day in SoCal today. No foie gras, but enjoyed a PETA day (People Eating Tasty Animals). It must be safe, our delightful politicians haven't outlawed it yet. But I know they will protect me from myself.

otto skorzeny's picture

pray tell-why was it beautiful? no Mex gang-bangers shot up your car? no bums on meth assaulted you on Mission Beach? you didn't sit in freeway in traffic for 4 hours? you took a long shower in subsidized  water that came 100s of miles from mountains?

falak pema's picture

An uber blogger, who loves the good things in life and wants a free market economy, believes that outsourcing is inevitable, wants to reconcile way of life and state of law, all the while saying the world is darwinian, is himself the incarnation of our human conundrum. The good things in life are pink clouded, roller bladed, near free, slave laboured, hand picked; but give me money any day!

If only we could force feed humans into becoming rational and living within their means on fresh water and clean air!

But then I would be Stalin and the world a goulag full of libertarians who like to impose their idea of freedom on others  at the end of a HFT play in a totally rigged free market.

I think I'll just watch Wimbledon today! Just my luck no play on Sunday!