March 23, 2007 / 2:01 AM / in 12 years

Wolfgang Puck joins natural-food movement

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has decided to be kinder to the animals he cooks.

Chef Wolfgang Puck (C) talks with the media during preparations for the 79th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2007. Puck has launched a program to bar animal cruelty from his $300 million-a-year business empire. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

In an announcement made with the cooperation of the Humane Society of the United States, Puck launched a program to bar animal cruelty from his $300 million-a-year business empire.

He said his restaurants would no longer serve foie gras, which involves the force-feeding of geese and ducks, or use pork or calves that have been kept in crates or use eggs from caged hens on his menus.

Puck removed the contentious food items from all his Wolfgang Puck restaurant menus and pledged to use only certified, sustainable seafood, and all-natural or organic chicken and turkey from progressive animal welfare-compliant farms.

Puck told Reuters that going natural was one goal easily within reach.

“We use organic vegetables already. We want to use humanely treated animals, and we want to be responsible citizens. We want to look into children’s nutrition ... and sustainable seafood, and so on,” he said.

He said the naturally raised veal, pork and chicken tasted better, and the cost, while as much as 5 percent higher, would be a small consideration for customers.

Puck’s decision was praised by the Humane Society of the United States and the animal advocacy group, Farm Sanctuary, which served as an adviser after years of campaigning against Puck’s restaurants.

“Our guests ... want to know where the food comes from and how the animals were raised,” Puck said earlier in a statement.

“They want to eat healthy food in good conscience, and they know that we can make healthy taste decisions,” he said.

The program will affect the company’s 14 fine-dining group restaurants, including his famed Beverly Hills restaurant Spago, and more than 80 Gourmet Express casual restaurants and 43 venues across the United States, where 10 million customers ate in 2006.

Foie gras is the fatty liver of a duck or goose, which is produced by force-feeding the animals through a tube and served as a luxury hors d’oeuvre.

Crated meats are those in which the animals are kept in small cages that prevent movement or proper growth.

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