July 1, 2012— -- California restaurant owners had until midnight to legally sell foie gras to customers seeking the French delicacy. Today, a state law signed in 2004 that bans producing or selling the fatty goose or duck liver achieved by force feeding goes into effect, and violators will be slapped with a $1,000 fine.
As the days counted down to the ban, restaurant owners said they saw an increase in sales from customers looking to enjoy their last legal taste.
"We have people asking for fois gras on their French fries, on their eggs on their sushi," said Pedro Lorencillo, general manager at Chaya Brasserie in San Francisco.
The Los Angeles Times even reported residents going on "foie gras crawls" in the last month before the ban took effect.
The law, signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, postponed the ban eight years so the state's main producer, Artisan Sonoma Foie Gras, could amend its business practices.
This is the only current ban of its kind in the United States, though Chicago had a ban for a few years before reversing it, and many countries in Europe consider its production inhumane and made it illegal.
Jennifer Fearing of the Humane Society said she supports the California ban because force feeding the animals with a tube to enlarge their livers is "fundamentally inhumane."
Bev Morse, a California diner, said she supports the ban as well.
"They are force-feeding these young animals until they practically explode and then using those organs to feed human beings," Morse said. "It's gruesome."
PETA posted a list on Friday of the top five reasons to ban foie gras nationwide with several graphic photos.
Sean Chaney, who owns Hot's Grill in Hermosa Beach, said he thinks graphic photos often come from unregulated farms in Europe.
"They're taken care of better than some people," he said. "They're pampered ducks."
According to Artisan Sonoma Foie Gras' website, the farm aims to be humane, and "ducks are never individually caged and roam free range for most of their lives."
Many California chefs call the ban "absurd," and pledge to use loopholes to serve the dish anyway.
One loophole restaurants have figured out is a BYOF policy, meaning Bring Your Own Foie. If you supply the foie gras, they'll cook it for free -- and maybe charge you $20 for the toast it's served on.
"People are calling that 'foikage,' said Dan Scherotter, chef at Palio d'Asti in San Francisco. "So instead of corkage, we'd charge 'foikage' to cook your fois gras for you."