What would happen, wondered Ariane Daguin, if you took a heritage-breed chicken and fed it scraps from fine restaurants?
Ms. Daguin, the French-born founder and chief executive of D’Artagnan, said feeding chickens scraps from acclaimed restaurants, where the best ingredients are used to create table-to-farm-to-table chickens was not a stunt, but part of a continuing mission to change the world by changing its palates.
The 220 birds, deemed Green Circle chickens, casually stroll around a 15,000-square-foot coop on an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, and are fed vegetable peelings and day-old bread from some of Manhattan’s most elegant restaurants, like Per Se, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, the Modern and David Burke Townhouse.
The New York Times explains that Ms. Daguin’s experiment involves elite chefs, organic farming practices and a breed of French poultry that is rarely found in the United States. The goal: to see whether American restaurants can turn back the culinary clock and rediscover “what a chicken should taste like,” said Ariane Daguin.
New York diners will get to feast on the results of this experiment when Green Circle chickens start showing up roasted on dinner plates at the same restaurants that helped feed them high quality scraps.
D’Artagnan spent more than $250,000 into research and start-up costs. “Using the expensive hatchlings of a heritage crossbreed, and feeding them for longer than usual, has more than doubled the normal cost of raising chickens.”
Michael Anthony at Gramercy Tavern plans to serve a dish with breast and thigh meat from the chicken, as well as sausage fashioned from it, as a $22 lunch item.
Ms. Daguin intends to create separate pens and roaming yards for the chickens that belong to each restaurant group. The Per Se chickens will eat only Per Se peelings and bread; the diet of the Gramercy Tavern chickens will come only from Gramercy Tavern.
“When I tasted it, I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who plans to start incorporating the chickens into menus. Witnesses say that after his first bite, Vongerichten was on the verge of tears.
Ms. Daguin recalled moving to Connecticut from France in 1977 and tasting her first bite of mass-produced American chicken. “It was a crime,” she said.
Daguin’s Experiment Ridiculed
Still, a few raised eyebrows are to be expected, writes Jeff Gordinier with The New York Times. “The image of chickens gorging on four-star ingredients can seem a rather operatic manifestation of today’s obsessions over food.”
Since when are vegetable peelings and day-old bread, the same scraps used to feed chickens on small farms since farming began, four-star ingredients?
Gordinier later adds that instead of dining on stale loaves from grandmother’s breadbox, these chickens are eating from pans of bread soaked in fresh milk, and white buckets full of leafy trimmings.
There’s still nothing four-star about milk and lettuce.
It’s truly sad to think some people are so out of touch with modest local organic food production they consider vegetable peelings, lettuce and day-old bread gourmet ingredients. The assumption is only apropos when compared to the GMO, chemically infused chicken feed used on factory farms.
Matthew Mills, a creator of “Fodder,” a satirical online show from the Cooking Channel commented that such enthusiastic reactions are over-the-top. “…it’s almost an Onion headline.”
Restaurant consultant Clark Wolf agreed. “On one side, it sounds kind of wonderful and magical, and on the other side it sounds like the biggest stunt I’ve ever heard,” he said. “I mean, you know — let them eat zucchini?”
Apparently reveling in the explosive difference in the rich and superior taste of chickens organically grown compared to the bland and insipid factory farm birds, pumped full of antibiotics, arsenic and hormones, warrants ridicule and suspicion from the likes of Mills and Clark.