Each week, D’Artagnan’s Green Circle Chickens consume more than three pickup truck loads of vegetable scraps which would otherwise be wasted. The result of a collaboration between D’Artagnan and restaurants, commercial chefs, and local farmers markets, the chicken is intended to provide a solution to food industry waste—reminiscent of olden days “when chickens lived on vegetable scraps and roamed freely around farmyards and pasturelands,” according to the company website.
Ariane Daguin is the co-founder, owner, and CEO of D’Artagnan. Daguin explained that seven of New York’s top chefs, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, David Burke, Michael Anthony, Thomas Keller, Gabriel Kreuther, and Daniel Humm, “loved Green CircleChicken from ideation to execution” as it also provided a direct solution to a more flavorful poultry meat as a result of its varied diet.
Since 1985, Daguin’s goal for D’Artagnan has been to produce meat conscientiously from animals reared under sustainable and humane production practices. She sourced meat from family-owned farms and co-operatives, similar to the agricultural scene in France where she was born. Since then, Daguin produced the first ever free-range, organic chicken in 1993, before USDA had its own organic certification program. Daguin is a French Legion d’ Honneur awardee, a Board Member of the French-American Chamber of Commerce in New York, and a Board Member of James Beard Awards Committee, among other awards and recognition titles.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Daguin about the inspiration and process behind Green Circle Chicken.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to bring Green Circle Chicken to the market?
Ariane Daguin (AD): At D’Artagnan, we are always striving to create a better taste experience. We noticed that there was a huge gap in poultry and felt we could vastly improve on the taste of chicken. Knowing the way an animal is raised—what it eats and how it’s treated on the farm—impacts the taste, it inspired us to develop a chicken with a more robust flavor.
By simply ensuring that our chickens grow slower, with plenty of time to mature, and providing access to a varied diet with no medications ever, fresh water and pastured space to roam outside, we proudly raise birds reminiscent of family farms from more than a century ago—when chickens ate leftover vegetable scraps and roamed farmyards.
By combining traditional farming methods with the advancements of today, we created a system that produces the tastiest, most flavorful birds, while making use of perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste. The name Green Circle Chicken represents the ongoing cycle of life and the sustainable, holistic process of producing these chickens.
FT: How did the idea behind Green Circle Chicken come about?
AD: The idea came from working closely alongside America’s top chefs. We heard our chef customers’ need for a heritage bird with greater flavor and texture than what was largely available from commercially-engineered birds. After suggesting that a varied diet yields a tastier bird, a few of our restaurant partners began volunteering leftover vegetable scraps as feed for the chickens.
The Green Circle Chicken program was pioneered by first collaborating with seven of New York’s most popular chefs, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, David Burke, Michael Anthony, Thomas Keller, Gabriel Kreuther and Daniel Humm.
We devised a structured cycle of transportation, in which trucks would drive the vegetable scraps from restaurant to farm and so on. With this structure, we could feed leftovers prepared by some of the country’s best chefs to D’Artagnan chickens.
After the initial success, we began working directly with the local farmer’s markets located near the farms, rather than commercial kitchens, as a way to reduce transportation and the resulting carbon footprint.
FT: The source for the vegetable-feed for the chickens are commercial kitchens and farmer’s markets. What was the initial reaction of the kitchens, restaurants, and markets about your proposal?
AD: The chefs and restaurants have loved Green Circle chicken from ideation to execution. It provided a direct solution to our chef’s need for a more flavorful bird and helped solve a growing issue—food waste. At the time, many chefs were looking for innovative, Earth-friendly solutions to manage their waste and Green Circle Chicken managed to tackle that problem.
FT: Could you speak about the farmers in and around Pennsylvania whom you work with in raising Green Circle Chicken?
AD: Since 2013, D’Artagnan has worked with a trusted group of Amish farmers in Lancaster County, PA to raise Green Circle Chickens. Today, the program has grown to involve ten farmers and D’Artagnan continues to prospect for additional partners who share the same ideals. We love working with the Amish farmers because they abide by the same set of strict standards as D’Artagnan, which includes respecting the animals and the Earth.
FT: Which breed of chicken is used for Green Circle Chicken? Are there any plans to involve more indigenous or heritage chicken breeds from the U.S. in the future?
AD: D’Artagnan uses two different breeds for Green Circle Chicken, Gallus Brun, Heritage Chicken and, Antibiotic-Free, Certified Humanely-Raised, Free-Range Chicken. We do not currently have any plans to involve other breeds in our Green Circle Chicken program. Based on feedback from our trusted customers, we have found that these diversified offerings currently satisfy the market.
FT: How has Green Circle Chicken been received by the consumers, individuals as well as the restaurant and commercial kitchen chefs?
AD: We are so proud of how well-received D’Artagnan Green Circle Chicken has been among restaurant partners and consumers alike. Providing a natural taste and texture that can only be achieved from a bird that has matured slowly, our Heritage Green Circle Chickens are a favorite among top chefs across the country. For consumers who are looking for a less expensive option, the Antibiotic-Free, Certified Humanely-Raised, Free-Range bird is the ‘best bang for your buck’ and a very popular choice at retail.
FT: What are your future plans with respect to Green Circle Chicken and other sustainably produced products at D’Artagnan?
AD: At D’Artagnan, we produce only sustainable meats of the highest quality and are constantly working to offer the most innovative products across a wide range of species. We believe that in order to have the best meat, you must treat animals the right way—no stress, a varied diet, and room to roam.
Most recently, we introduced a new line of Saucisson Sec varieties, including Wild Boar, Duck, and Pork. The trio of authentic, air-cured sausage is made the traditional way: all naturally, by hand, in small batches, and without the use of additives and preservatives. D’Artagnan’s heritage-bred ducks and humanely-raised hogs come from small farms that never use antibiotics or hormones. The boar is humanely trapped and offers a true taste of the wild.
There is always room to grow as tastes and trends emerge. As the consumers’ palettes continue to evolve, we are dedicated to putting only the finest meats on the tables of American gastronomes and remaining at the forefront of product innovation.