alarms. “I can’t believe we’re going through this again,”
says Marion Nestle, the author and nutrition expert.
“Other issues in meat-raising are much more critical.”
It’s a generally weird time for the meat industry,
which claims $1 trillion in U.S. “economic impact.”
Americans are eating record amounts of animal protein.
Only around 5 percent identify as vegetarian. Yet we’re
increasingly aware of all of the downsides of how meat is
produced, and seeking plant-based alternatives from the
fast-growing likes of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat,
which raised $240 million in a June IPO.
Large factory farms have been widely criticized for
releasing immense amounts of waste and pollutants into
our air and water; for juicing their livestock with so
many antibiotics that bacteria become resistant to their
e;ects, causing potential health crises for humans; and
for raising their animals in cramped, filthy, torturous
conditions. And while Yanay processes maybe 500,000
ducks per year, factory farming churns through about
nine billion chickens in the U.S. annually, and roughly
32 million cows.
Those are the horrific processes that Daguin has
dedicated her life and her company to countering, and for
which she provides her widely praised alternatives. But
her fierce allegiance to foie gras—and the production
process that sounds so inhumane, for what’s essentially
a food for the 1 percent—puts her company in the cross
hairs of the animal activists with whom she otherwise
claims common ground. “My
animals have one bad day,” she
insists while driving to the farm,
her long frame folded into the red
Such determination built Daguin’s company, rescued
it from the wreckage of her breakup with Faison, and
kept it independent when fellow organic-meat pioneers
sold out. But it also has generated other obstacles for
D’Artagnan—including the question of its future.
Daguin ducks this question as much as possible,
perhaps because it’s a rare example of her plans getting
thwarted. In her oft-told gospel of How Ariane Kept
D’Artagnan, her daughter is Angel Gabriel, the herald
who encouraged her mother to fight for the company.
Alix, then 17, was visiting her grandparents in France
when Ariane called to tell her that Faison might force
her out. “And then she says to me, ‘Are you going to let
George do that? What if, one day, I want to join the com-
pany?’;” Daguin recounts, proud and wistful. “That’s the
one thing—that one little sentence—that made me really
Today, Alix is an architect, with her own design firm
and no plans to take over the company she inspired her
mother to fight for. “My mom has raised me to think for
myself,” she says. “At this point, I have my own path.”
At 61, Daguin does not seem to have retirement in her
vocabulary, and she admits she’s not doing much plan-
ning for an Ariane-less D’Artagnan. Maybe she’ll sell
some of it to her employees, through an ESOP—“as long
as I can keep some control,” she muses.
But for now, there are foie gras battles to fight, a
property in California to find, and sales to double. She’s
also looking for a farm in upstate New York, planning to
turn it into a D’Artagnan foundation and self-sustaining
restaurant—one where people can milk the cows or learn
how to make cheese and bread before dining at the sure-to-be-spectacular farm-to-table restaurant, which Alix
will design. If it comes to fruition, the nonprofit could
slyly accomplish goals that have long eluded Daguin:
work with her daughter, resurrect her doomed restaurant—even, finally, become her father’s heir.
All of this is on her mind as she drives her tiny
car across the George Washington Bridge, en route to
Hudson Valley, a summer morning sky and the Hudson
River stretched out endlessly on either side. “It’s good
to get out of the o;ce,” Daguin sighs, brightening as she
contemplates her planned nonprofit. She’s just found the
right farmland, she confides, and is waiting to hear if her
o;er is accepted.
She lifts both hands, fingers crossed for her latest
hope and dream. Letting go of the wheel, if only for a
MARIA ASPAN is an Inc. editor-at-large.
Barred Rocks and
LaBelle Rouges at a
D’Artagnan farm. F