An experiment at a Pennsylvania farm that feeds fancy four-star food scraps to chickens and then delivers those chickens to the same elite restaurants that fed them is backing up the idea of "farm-to-table" and putting it in reverse.
The project is either a stroke of genius or an example of foodie culture taking a leap off the deep end, judging from a profile in the New York Times.
New York diners will get to nibble on the results this week. After having been fattened up in Pennsylvania, about 220 of what the D’Artagnan company is calling Green Circle chickens will start showing up (usually roasted) on dinner plates at the same restaurants that helped feed them. For high-end chefs, who engage in a perpetual contest to track down the purest and most rarefied ingredients, it is a tantalizing prospect.
The elite chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who was "on the verge of tears" after the first bite, told the paper: "When I tasted it, I was like, ‘Whoa.'" Another chef who runs the kitchen in the expensive New York City restaurant Eleven Madison Park ate the entire chicken, it tasted so good.
The idea is the brainchild of D’Artagnan, a company that, according to the Times, has helped bring niche foods like foie gras and game birds to mainstream U.S. consciousness. The founder, Ariane Daugin, didn’t like the mushy, watery, tasteless chicken that's so common here. So she started with a breed of heritage chickens from France, put them on an Amish farm, and fed them day-old vegetable scraps from four-star New York City restaurants.
This is not cheap chicken. A quarter million dollars went into research and development costs, and raising the chickens costs more than double what normal birds cost. The feeding method may not be a sustainability improvement, either. The daily food scrap deliveries had to be trucked more than a hundred miles, whereas, as the understandably befuddled Amish farmer hosting the chickens pointed out to the Times:
The birds live on property owned by Leon Zimmerman, an Amish farmer and father of 12 who passed through New York City just once. "We’re not used to quite that much traffic," he said. He has been raising chickens for decades, but never quite this way.
"We explained the concept," Ms. Daguin said, "but for him it’s like: ‘What? You’re driving two and a half hours to give me vegetable scraps? I have them right here.’"
[Image: Chickens via Shutterstock]