It’s not revolutionary to state, in the simplest terms: Factory farming is a plague on our society. It’s all about profits and accessibility over quality and humanity. And yet… year after year we vote for this system with our wallets. Every dollar we spend sends a message to businesses, and the current message seems to be, “as long as you’re cheaper, we’re fine with it.”
Ariane Daguin believes that a vote for sustainable and cruelty-free meat should be easy to cast. And she wants to persuade you to take her side. It was with this aim that Daguin founded D’Artagnan back in 1985. At the time, she was working part-time for a New York pâté producer when she noticed that no one wanted to represent duck farmers who were producing high-quality foie gras in America.
Daugin took matters into her own hands and started distributing all the parts of the duck to restaurants. That quickly led to expansion into organic poultry, before there was even a designation at the USDA for ‘organic.’
The overarching goal for D’Artagnan was simple: Recreate the high-quality of life for livestock from Daguin’s childhood in France that, in turn, leads to the best quality product for restaurants and consumers. Her guidelines are straight-forward, “Never, ever administer growth hormones or antibiotics; feed animals a clean, natural, and appropriate diet of grasses and grains; allow animals their natural behaviors and space to roam.” It’s not rocket science, but it’s crucial to the wellbeing of our food system.
We sat down with Daguin to talk about what it is exactly that sets her products apart from the factory farmed animal proteins that have flooded American grocery stores. It’s a deep dive into why you need to stop buying factory farmed chicken right now, and how to transition to locally sourced and cruelty-free sources of animal protein.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of D’Artagnan?
We started 32 years ago. There was a farmer who started the first duck foie gras farm in America. He had a hard time finding somebody to actually commercialize the foie gras and the rest of the duck. For a very long time I wanted to start my company, so that was the little spark that made us start D’Artagnan.
Where did you get started?
We started here in New Jersey to cover the New England, you know, from Boston down to Washington, DC. Now we have warehouses in Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta.
Let’s talk about the farming. How important is good feed and what is the best feed for chickens?
We get all the poultry for the East Coast in Pennsylvania where we have partnered with Amish farmers. They use their own feed and that is grain. It is complemented sometimes when there’s a very bad harvest, but that is rare. The feed is nothing different than that in an all natural diet with pure spring water for drinking. That’s it.
The Amish? Why?
We like partnering with Amish. They have this philosophy in life that this land and this livestock was given to them and their responsibility in life is to pass it on to the next generation in as good of shape or better than what was given to them. We like that because it means that they’re going to respect the earth and they’re going to respect the animals that they’re raising.
What’s special about Amish chickens?
The first step is the feed has to be natural feed. The second is the breed has to be a breed that has not been manipulated too much.
Why is that?
Factory farm chickens live up to 50 days. The heritage chickens are more like 85, sometimes 100-days old.
An Amish farm sounds kind of idyllic, I’m guessing there’s a lot of room to roam?
They have to have room to roam around. That’s really the key to a good quality chicken: a sturdy breed that’s going to last a long time, room to roam around to build the muscle, and wholesome feed. Those are the three things.