Free Range Ariane Daguin, co-founder of D’Artagnan, at an Amish farm in Myerstown, Pennsylvania, that raises poultry according to her company’s exacting standards.
"It’s the hallway of death!” Ariane Daguin is cheerfully leading a strange parade through a barn’s dim back corridor. Normally, this passage conveys fattened ducks from their feeding pens to the slaughterhouse; today, it marks the end of a sales tour.
This duck farm, nestled in the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains, is where it all began for Daguin, a blunt and unfussy Frenchwoman who keeps geese and chickens as pets, and who has spent a lifetime selling slaughtered poultry. D’Artagnan, the gourmet meat distributor she co-founded in 1985, took in more than $130 million last year from organic chicken, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised lamb, and other, more exotic animal proteins. But her business started here, with the ducks of Hudson Valley Foie Gras—and the controversial, luxurious livers that give the farm its name. And it’s here where Daguin now shepherds her salespeople and chef clients past the oblivious animals, greeting them with her usual mixture of familiar delight and wry unsentimentality. “Tomorrow!” she sing-shouts, playful at a formidable six feet. “Foie gras tomorrow!