Andronico's Markets president and chief executive Bill Andronico said today that his eight-store grocery chain has completely stopped selling foie gras, which is the fattened liver of ducks and geese.
In a phone interview, Andronico said the decision to halt such sales was "a no-brainer" because he believes that ducks and geese are treated inhumanely in the preparation of the delicacy, which some say dates back to ancient Egypt 45 centuries ago.
He said the production of foie gras doesn't meet Andronico's commitment to animal welfare, saying the treatment of animals is "an area of importance" to the grocery chain.
Andronico said the chain had already stopped most sales of foie gras at least three years ago but until last week had still accepted special orders at some stores.
Andronico said the chain started selling foie gras in the 1980s and initially sold it in cans. It later also sold the product in vacuum-sealed packages, he said.
Andronico said the chain has only sold about one package of foie gras a year for the past several years, so imposing the total ban "is almost a non-event" in terms of sales.
Christina Tacoronti, the campaigns coordinator for the Animal Protection and Rescue League, said, "We are happy that Andronico's Markets is making the compassionate decision to no longer sell this product of extreme animal cruelty."
Tacoronti said ducks have been force-fed to the point of organ rupture and death during the production of foie gras.
She said, "The only way to make foie gras is by force-feeding the ducks to enlarge their livers to more than 10 times their normal size, resulting in difficulty walking and breathing and causing immense pain and suffering."
The state Legislature has banned the sale or production of foie gras in California effective in 2012 and the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, West Hollywood, Solana Beach and San Diego have recently passed resolutions in support of the ban.
Tacoronti said the Whole Foods grocery chain also refuses to carry foie gras.
In addition, she said many Bay Area restaurants have removed the controversial dish from their menus, including restaurants owned by Wolfgang Puck and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's Plumpjack Group.
Foie gras producers say that in the wild, ducks and geese gorge themselves prior to migration in order to temporarily store fat in their liver and skin, which they use for energy during migration.
They say the managed feeding in foie gras production utilizes the duck's physiological capacity to transform the excess feed into fat and store it in the liver and skin.
Producers say each feeding takes only a few seconds and isn't harmful.
Andronico said he hasn't received many complaints from customers since the chain stopped most of its foie gras sales three years ago, but said, "We got one complaint from someone today ... who threatened not to stop at our stores anymore."
He added, "Our customers don't ask for it on a regular basis."