Foie Gras In The Twin Cities: Unwanted By Restaurant Patrons And Bad For Ducks
In 2011, Faunalytics began awarding free research services through our Grassroots Research Fund. We have now completed our first pro bono project with the Animal Rights Coalition (ARC). ARC, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been working to stop the production and sale of foie gras in the Twin Cities area through the Forego Foie Gras campaign. To increase their effectiveness, they sought to understand knowledge of and attitudes toward foie gras among Twin Cities diners. Faunalytics was excited to help a well-organized, focused and driven campaign by creating and administering the Twin Cities Dining Survey, which covered knowledge, attitudes, and the general dining habits of Twin Cities Residents. The final survey is representative of adults in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan areas and it finds an overwhelming lack of support for foie gras as a food item.
Forego Foie Gras
Foie gras is a food product made from the enlarged liver of ducks, as described on ARC’s website:
“To produce foie gras, ducks or geese are force fed to enlarge their livers to up to 12 times their healthy size. For up to a month, three times a day, deliberate and painful overfeeding occurs. This results in immense internal pressure; the birds pant incessantly and have trouble walking. It is at the point when the birds would otherwise die from organ rupture that the foie gras industry finds them to be ideal for slaughter… The process of forced feeding is so traumatic, and the conditions on foie gras farms so debilitating, that the pre-slaughter mortality rate for foie gras production is up to 20 times the average rate on other duck farms.”
The Forego Foie Gras campaign is focused on getting restaurants to take this item off of their menus and pledge to remain foie gras free. Understanding what people know about foie gras production and who is eating foie gras will help ARC better target their outreach efforts to the area’s diners. Learning more about who purchases foie gras and how big the foie gras market is will also assist ARC with communicating the issues in a way that is both relevant and compelling to restaurant owners and managers.
Please read the survey summary below or get the full report here.
Summary of Findings
- Most Twin Cities residents are unfamiliar with foie gras, indicating a need for education about foie gras production. Nearly half (44%) of respondents indicated that they had never heard of foie gras.
- Three-quarters (74%) of Twin Cities residents support a ban on foie gras production in the state of Minnesota.
- After learning about how foie gras is produced, nearly half (45%) of respondents said they would avoid dining at restaurants that serve foie gras. Another 31% of respondents said that they would avoid doing so under certain circumstances.
Foie gras consumption: Foie gras is a relatively unknown and unpopular food item. Nearly half (44%) of respondents had not heard of foie gras. Among those who did know what foie gras is, three-fifths (59%) indicated that they “never eat foie gras.” In all, only 18% of the respondents indicated eating foie gras and over half of these respondents eat it “less than 1 time a year.”
Should foie gras be banned in Minnesota?: When provided an explanation of how foie gras is produced, three-quarters (74%) of respondents indicated that they think that force feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras should be banned in Minnesota. This question was asked using the same wording used in the past by Zogby International on similar polls in other cities/states, so that results can be compared. In all age and income categories the majority of respondents agreed with a ban on the practice in Minnesota.
Knowledge of foie gras production: Most adults in Minneapolis and St. Paul are unaware of how foie gras is produced. In total, only one-fifth (20%) of respondents indicated that they knew how it was produced.
Eating at restaurants that serve foie gras: Respondents who indicated in the previous question that they were aware of how foie gras was produced were also asked if they have ever decided not to eat at a restaurant in the past because it served foie gras. Over one-fifth (22%) of respondents answered that they had decided not to eat at a restaurant because they served this item.
All respondents were then asked if they thought that, in the future, knowing that a restaurant served foie gras would impact their decision to eat there. A plurality of nearly half (45%) of those surveyed said that they would “avoid dining at that restaurant.” About one-third (31%) indicated it might have an effect, depending on the circumstances, and 7% were unsure.
Discussion of Findings
The findings of this survey show that foie gras is an unpopular food item among adults in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan areas. Not only do few people eat foie gras, there is support for banning foie gras production. It is also important to note that, while there is generally little knowledge about foie gras, once they are informed most people would choose not to eat foie gras and many are even willing to avoid dining at a restaurant that serves foie gras. This highlights a need among advocates to make education a part of their campaigns against both the sale and production of foie gras.
Importantly, even among foie gras eaters there is a lack of support for foie gras once educated about its production. Attitudes toward foie gras were examined after removing everyone who said they have never eaten foie gras, never heard of it, or were not sure of their consumption. Looking only at those who responded that they have eaten foie gras, there remains an overwhelming lack of support. Once foie gras production was described for them, 70% of respondents agreed that the production of foie gras should be banned in Minnesota. Further, 31% indicated that in the future they would avoid dining at restaurants that serve foie gras and 42% said they might avoid dining at such places. Even among the minority of Twin Cities residents who eat foie gras (18%), most are at least willing to consider a ban on restaurants that serve the item, once they are educated about how it is produced.
These findings have implications for both restaurants and animal advocates. Most important for animal advocates is to recognize that there is little knowledge about how foie gras is produced, but that once people learn about the process they are not only likely to oppose it, but also likely to support making foie gras production illegal and are even willing to avoid restaurants that serve it. This latter point, that the typical Twin Cities diner will avoid restaurants that serve foie gras, is also important for restaurant managers and owners to understand. These managers/owners should note that foie gras is not a popular menu item. So few people eat it regularly, and so many more people find it a distasteful product, that it is in the best interest of restaurants to take it off of their menus.