Psycho Donuts Creates Foie Gras Controversy on ‘National Donut Day’

Psycho Donuts scared off some of its vegan customers and incurred the wrath of animal rights groups Friday, National Donut Day, when it gave out free Foie gras donuts to the morning’s first batch of customers.

Though California last year outlawed sale of force-fed-until-fat-engorged goose and duck livers, the state doesn’t ban giveaways. So, no, the stunt wasn’t illegal, but it certainly drummed up a fair bit of outrage—something Psycho Donuts is no stranger to, considering its name and “loony bin” theme have long angered mental health advocates.

People were so furious, some took to Facebook to air their grievances—except for one guy, who showed up in person at the San Jose location (another location is in Campbell) with a sign and remained polite and calm the whole time, according to staff. Others weren’t so kind.

“Have fun eating shame, dumbass,” MissCass Wolf posted on the company’s Facebook page.

“I guess when your donuts are mediocre (seriously the last donut I had from you folks was so dry I could have suckled more moisture from the desiccated toe of a 2,000-year-old mummy) you have to resort to the whole ‘psycho’ schtick,” wrote Gina Grega. “When schtick’s not enough, I guess you have to stoop to the shock promo campaigns like this foie gras ridiculousness. Wow. Animal cruelty is so edgy.”

“Nothing says trendy, progressive hipster like ramming a metal rod down a duck’s throat to enlarge an organ 600+ percent,” adds a commenter under the nom de plume Christine YouBetcha DontchaKnow.

“What’s next? Fried puppies?” asks Rusty Royden.

A local CBS report says the Facebook outrage escalated to death threats against the restaurant’s chef Ron Levi. On Monday, no comments on the Facebook page could be construed as violent or threatening.

Psycho co-owner Web Granger said he didn’t see any direct threats, but , he added, his stores did field a few phone calls from people asking how they would feel if someone “grabbed you by the throat and force-fed you with a tube.”

Some of the online comments were from out-of-state PETA activists ganging up on Psycho, Granger said. A San Francisco-based pro-foie gras advocacy group reached out to inform him as much.

Meanwhile, in response to literally hundreds of deprecating comments, Psycho staff began nixing some of the most vitriolic.

“We welcome your feedback and your right to express your opinions, however, we are a family friendly business,” the company wrote. “Any posts which contains disturbing images, and or offensive language will be deleted and the offender will be banned. Thank you for your continued support and understanding.”

Sarah Kishler found that statement a tad dishonest. The former Psycho customer said she was banned from the bakery’s Facebook page without posting anything remotely offensive.

“Their picture should be in the dictionary under ‘disingenuous,’” Kishler said, adding that she doubts Psycho’s claims that it received “full-blown violent threats,” as CBS reported. “Alarm bells go off in my librarian brain.”

Others accused Psycho of creating fake profiles, lying about death threats, removing Yelp reviews and unjustifiably deleting comments.

Though it’s a popular animal rights cause to champion, there’s some debate about the cruelty of Foie gras farms. Celebrity chef and traveler Anthony Bourdain defended Foie gras on his show several years ago, dispelling the notion that birds are force-fed by metal rods for hours when it’s actually a seconds-long, four-times-a-day procedure—which could still be considered cruel, depending on your sensibilities and what other cruel-and-unusually-manufactured food you eat.

“We do have a loyal vegan following, which we’re grateful for, and even though we sell bacon on donuts, they felt that this was going too far,” Granger said. “You know, some people are vegan, some people only eat locally, there’s a lot of different moral positions you could take. It depends on the person. There are people who make Foie gras humanely, and some that do not. It all comes down to what choices you want to make as a consumer.”

Granger said that Psycho Donuts never purposely sought controversy for publicity’s sake. For example, the restaurant toned down down a few donut names after complaints: “Bipolar” to “Mood Swing” and “Massive Head Trauma” to “Headbanger.”

“We at Psycho donuts are always trying to take the donuts to new places, to push the boundaries,” Granger said Monday. “We weren’t out to create controversy.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Foie gras is considered a delicacy, and anyone who wouldn’t even try it just one time, over concerns about “animal cruelty,” is being silly.  I salute “Psycho Donuts” for giving people the opportunity to try something that their [s]elected betters in Sacramento have attempted to deny them.

      • Kathleen Flynn

        How kneejerk of you!

        Not all Foie Gras is produced on factory farms with animals being treated cruelly.  Here’s a nice video of a free range french farm.

        Unless you can prove (or disprove) the source of Psycho Donuts delicious secret filling, you have no place placing judgement on Kevin.  I’ve seen you host plenty of “Safety Officers” BBQ’s, and likely the cattle that went into those Hamburgers and Steaks were treated much worse than the geese in the video.

        • Robert,
          What a shame that you had to stoop so low. I thought better of you. Anyway~

          There’s nothing “knee jerk” about my unwillingness to spend my money at an establishment that thrives on the abuse of innocent animals, or pokes fun at mentally ill people just to make a buck. You of all people should know that.

          I think you’re the one who needs to prove that your Psycho Doughnut buddies didn’t use an animal tortured product. 

          As to the BBQ, you didn’t see me eating meat, but you certainly did, and I really didn’t see or hear you complain about the free meal either~

          As a Father, and a very loving/good one at that, I would think you’d want to teach your children compassion and social responsibility.

        • If pointing out flaws in your logic is stepping low, I better get an umbrella the next time ants decide to relive themselves, because I’m about to stoop lower.

          First off, since when has using the word “psycho” in a name been an indication that the author is poking fun at the mentally ill?  I guess Alfred Hitchcock is a bastard too (actually, he was a womanizing, loathing, creeper according to some accounts)  Maybe we should ban business’s from using certain words in their names, since those of weak constitution might be offended.

          Second, since the sale/distribution of Foie Gras is illegal in California, can’t we deduce that it’s possible that they made the tasty paste themselves?  I know them fairly well, as they were a customer at 7b for a spell. I should call them and ask them to post here about how they made it. There are plenty of recipe’s online that spell out the ease of creating it.

          Third, I grew up on a farm.  I was taught to use as much of an animal as possible.  I cried when we butchered our pigs, as I ate those tasty Italian Sausages.  Wow, those are tasty!  This came from a pig?  I’ve seen an animal go from a living creature, to a meal on my plate.  I don’t see much issue with animals being raised for slaughter. YMMV

          Fourth, I teach my kids these same values.  My kids are not little snot picky eaters.  My daughter just got an award for her school for being “Saintly”.  This award is given to one kid from each grade.  So I must be teaching her some kind of compassion. (BTW she loves bacon and steaks)

          While we’re on the subject of compassion, my dog of 12 years came down with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)  Her treatment was going to be expensive.  Did I let my pocketbook affect what I knew in my heart to be morally right for my dog?  No, $8k later I have a 3 legged dog who’s happy to be alive.

          Finally by knee jerk, you just called Kevin (and now me) uncompassionate, because we share the same value. When an animal has given up it’s life for us to live, it’s the Christian thing to do to not waste any part of it.  I could throw out some scripture here if I wanted to.  Would you like some?

        • One more thing I want to add here too.

          I just had prime rib at Harris Beef Ranch, one of the few Temple Grandin approved slaughterhouses.  It was delicious.

        • Robert,
          We can agree to disagree. I know you to be a softer, kinder soul then you are coming off on this blog. Let’s just keep it that way shall we?

          Times have changed and few of us live on a farm. Just because meat comes prepackaged doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering of animals that end up on our plates. Any way, most small farmers treat animals more humanly than large companies who warehouse and slaughter animals.

          I encourage you to do a little more research on just how animals are treated prior to slaughter. They are treated horrifically, and there really is no disputing that fact.

          Enjoy your steaks, and your doughnuts. I’ll stick to eating and spending my money on humane products, and supporting businesses who value the lives of animals~

        • Please do invite Psycho Donuts to comment here. Excellent idea. Let’s see how they in a discussion do when the banhammer is not in their hands.

        • Here’s the money quote:

          “*Update:  The vegan parents whose baby died as described in this article were convicted by a French court to 5 years in prison due to the imbalanced vegan diet the mother ate which led to nutrient poor breastmilk and a failure to thrive child who eventually fell ill from severe nutrient deficiency and died without the parents ever seeking proper medical attention.”

          I’m for rounding up all radical vegans, having the IRS audit their tax returns, having NSA tap their phones and internet connections to find out who is in their “community”, and then herding them into FEMA camps and feeding them only non-organic vegan food.

        • I haven’t been a meatover for over 20 years. I have no serious health issues whatsoever.

          I also have friends from India who have not eaten meat in their entire lives. They are healthy too. They are older than me.

          There certainly is debating this, despite what you might wish to be otherwise.

        • Lou Scannon, Fearful NIMBY Declinist,

          You bring up a point not addressed here. Infants do need proper nutrition, and not eating meat is a choice an ADULT individual should make.

          One other point, there are ways that a vegan mother can ensure proper nutrition for their child. Nutritionists can help with that.

        • Kevin,

          Let’s table the whole foie gras issue for a moment. You and I may never see eye to eye on that.

          Do you think Psycho Donuts did a good thing by banning me and many others (who have given them their business in the past) from their Facebook wall for stating our opinions and then trying to pretend they were only banning people if they used offensive language or disturbing images? By the way, the opinion I got banned for was the suggestion they shouldn’t completely ignore their customers’ concerns. That’s it. No name calling, no flaming, not even exclamation points from me.

          Do you think it was a good thing that they went to the media and made claims of getting death threats from animal rights supporters just so they could drum up publicity? By the way, I was able to get the CBS outlet that originally reported on “death threats” to retract that allegation.

          Do you think these are things a good company with integrity does?

        • I have to disagee Robert Cortese, humans are not made to digest meat. Going back as far as the publication of Back to Eden, it describes the human to be soley vegetartian.  Meat eating started with the difference in class and the availability of food itself;  ie. cannibalism on the Donner Pass…basically when you are hungry enough, you’ll eat anything. My son was allergic to dairy most of his childhood.  It has alreasdy been proven that meat/dairy have been the primary cause of prostate, cervical, ahd liver cancer in The China Study. 
            In regards to eating/abusing animals, this nation once thought that slavery was ok, and segregation was ok, beating ones own children was ok.  Is it not true that because animals have no way of ensuring protection of themselves we as a nation continue to avoid the moral question of whether it is right or wrong to eat or abuse them and we PRETEND it is right becasuse we CAN. Which is to say that we would still have slavery if it werent for the morals of the few to stop it. Meat is not about need , it is about GREED.

        • Kevin Riley O’Keeffe,
          I wouldn’t call humane laws preventing cruelty to animals, “silly, unjust laws.” But eat what you will. It’s your right! wink

        • I once considered quitting meat (particularly pork), because of the terrible way animals are routinely treated on factory farms.  But I’d never wish to make pork illegal.  and I certainly wouldn’t want any geese to be mistreated, but I stand by my assertion that the people of the state of California have the right to sell or purchase foie gras to their hearts’ content (ans that this right should not be trampled upon by the somewhat buffoonish Legislature).  And that “Psycho Donuts” did a good thing by undermining a silly, unjust law.  And opening up people to new cultural (culinary) experience.

        • That’s a sweet way of putting it: animals “giving up” their lives like Iraqi women and children “give up” their lives as collateral damage in American wars. Amirite?

  2. Uhhhh, that looks so nasty. Is that actually a photo of one of their psycho donuts? This ruined my lunch. I would never purchase anything edible that looked like that…but I guess some “psycho” would. To each his own.

  3. “Psycho Donuts” has learned one very important profit making rule, do something disgusting, and outrageous to earn a buck and get their business in the news so they can attract more business.

    They, like someone else we know, found a loophole in the law and are capitalizing on it, which completely undermines the true intent/purpose of the law.

    They have lost my business forever.

    • It is not merely food. It is food derived from animal cruelty, and despite what some people claim, there is no way to make it without that cruelty. I, for one, will NOT “get over it,” thank you very much.

      • Contrary to popular belief Not all Foie Gras is derived from Animal Cruelty . like most everything else It is done to maximize profits . I get it , you dont like it and thats fine but there are those that appreciate it. there are many , many things some people will eat and some won’t , everyone has to decide for them selves

        • All Im saying is not everyone is an animal lover and that not everyone cares about cruelty t animals . Its just not an issue for them , and thats their right. As for me , I would never harm an animal , thats just not me. But I do enjoy foods and to be Honest , I dont always Stop and consider where my food came from or how it was Handled . Foie Gras is not for me , but thats just my choice


          “All Im saying is not everyone is an animal lover and that not everyone cares about cruelty t animals . Its just not an issue for them , and thats their right.”

          Fair enough, you are right, we must decide based on our own integrity and compassion.

          “As for me , I would never harm an animal , thats just not me. But I do enjoy foods and to be Honest , I dont always Stop and consider where my food came from or how it was Handled . Foie Gras is not for me , but thats just my choice.”

          Thank you for caring enough to do the right and humane thing. God bless~

    • Yeah, vegans who have no problem supporting an establishment that makes fun of people with mental illness, or one that supports the cruelty of the veal industry through their use of milk. (What do you think happens to baby male cows in a dairy farm?) Priorities: some people don’t have them.

      • Oh, my bad. Read that a little too quickly. I see now where you’re trying to go with that. But still. LOL. Sorry, we can’t stay away from every place that uses milk. We do live in the world.

        • Typical knee-jerk reaction to TEXT that you had ample time to READ and write a proper response to. This isn’t real-time discourse where you’d have the excuse of mishearing or someone speaking too quickly…

          But whatever, Kishler. Keep your fauxrage over fois gras as you “live in the world.” Ethical vegans can support companies that promote their values…or be hypocrites. Your call. Just don’t be surprised when you’re called out on it.

          LOL, indeed.

        • I readily admit I am not perfect and my reply to you missed your point and was kneejerk. However, if you knew me you would know it was far from typical of me to be kneejerk.

          Sorry it made you angry.

  4. Sounds delicious, the question is would it be better to eat before the milk fed veal as an appetizer or after as a dessert?

    People today are too easily offended – get over yourselves!

  5. I used to regularly patronize Psycho Donuts, but will never do so again. Not only am I utterly disgusted with their use of foie gras, but like Ms. Kishler I was banned from their Facebook page for simply stating my opinion. I used no foul language, graphic images, or threats. But Ms. Kishler and I were only 2 out of hundreds whose critical comments were deleted in an attempt to cover up the backlash. It seems that for a company that wants so badly to be edgy and controversial, they can’t even stand the controversy they create and can’t come up with valid arguments to support their decisions. Psycho Donuts is run by morally bankrupt individuals who think torturing animals is acceptable as long as they get some publicity out of it, but their plan has backfired. They’ve alienated hundreds of customers who will never come back, and despite the publicity they haven’t gained any new ones. Those who came in for free foie gras donut holes are NOT their regular customers and will never become ones, either. Idiotic move, Psychos.

  6. An Open Letter to Psycho Donuts

    Dear Psychos,

    Given the controversy, anger, and emotional pain brought about by your “Foie Bomb” specialty pastry, please consider using the any of these “less offensive to Californians” product names in the future.

    —“3rd Trimester Bear Claw”
    —“Baby-Daddy Buttermilk Bar”
    —“Anchor Baby Eclair”
    —“Scout Leader Cream Puff”
    —“Tattooed Sweet Tart”
    —“Pride Flag Candy Sprinkle”
    —“Glazed Gang Banger”
    —“Morning After Maple Bar”
    —“Old-fashioned Dyke on a Bike”
    —“Cannabis Club Donut Holes”
    —“Pierced Nipple Fritter”

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