You are what you eat, so they say, and D'Artagnan, a company known for its heritage breed turkeys, chickens, and other meats, are taking that maxim to its extremes. The company is raising French, heritage chickens on table scraps from some of New York's finest 4-star restaurants—before shipping them back to the same restaurants to become part of the menu.
The Circle of Life?
Ariane Daguin, founder and chief executive of D'Artagnan is on the quest to find the perfect bird—one that actually, well, tastes like chicken. Daguin, a French ex-pat, called her first taste of American, industrial chicken "a crime" in the New York Times, and it has been her company's mission to bring delicacies like heritage breed turkeys, foie gras, game birds, and Berkshire pork to the American table.
Her idea was to raise chickens—in this case, a heritage breed from Gascony, France—the way French farmers would have done, with plenty of room to roam and excellent table scraps.
The kicker is that the table scraps are being donated by the likes of Per Se, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, and the David Burke Townhouse.
It's like the ultimate in table-to-farm-to-table cuisine.
“When I tasted it, I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Jean-Georges Vongerichten told the New York Times of his first D'Artagnan chicken. Eyewitnesses report he was in tears after his first bite.
The chickens, which D'Artagnan is calling Green Circle, are being raised on an Amish farm about two hours from Manhattan. On the one hand, the experiment seems to embody everything good about raising animals for consumption: giving them the very best and treating them extremely well for their admittedly short, but hopefully happy lives.
On the other hand, it seems like something from an episode of Portlandia—foodie porn. Raising these pedigreed chickens costs nearly double what a normal chicken would cost to raise. At Gramercy Tavern, diners can experience this circle of life for $22 a plate. At lunch.
Despite the expense, Daguin plans to take the D'Artagnan experiment even a step further, raising chickens specific to each restaurant that will only be fed on scraps from the restaurant to which they will eventually return. The chefs are excited both for the competition (whose chicken will taste best?) and the opportunity to create a sort of "terroir" of chicken by feeding them specific scraps.
“Listen, if the chickens ate ginger and lemon, you would have a gingery, lemony chicken, I think,” chef David Burke told the Times. “You are what you eat.” (Unfortunately for him, chickens won't eat citrus.)