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Wolfgang Puck’s new kindler, gentler menu

Wolfgang Puck,
Wolfgan Puck is making the changes to his menus after three years of protests by Farm Sanctuary, an animal-rights group. The celebrity chef says he wasn't responding to the pressure.Ric Francis / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

As part of a several new initiative to fight animal cruelty, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck said Thursday he will no longer serve foie gras, the fatty liver produced by overfeeding ducks and geese.

His 14 fine-dining restaurants, more than 80 fast-casual eateries and 43 catering venues will use only eggs from hens that have lived cage-free; veal from roaming calves; and lobsters that have been removed from their ocean traps quickly to avoid crowded holding tanks.

Puck said guests at his restaurants want to know their food is made with fresh, organic ingredients and that the animals were treated well.

“We want a better standard for living creatures. It’s as simple as that,” Puck said.

The move came after three years of protests by Farm Sanctuary, an animal-rights group that launched — relabeled Wolfgang Puck Victory as of Thursday — and organized a leafletting campaign outside Puck’s restaurants.

Puck worked with the Humane Society of the United States on the new initiative. He said he wasn’t responding to pressure from animal welfare advocates, but instead believes the best-tasting food comes from animals that have been treated humanely.

“We decided about three months ago to be really much more socially responsible,” he said. “We feel the quality of the food is better, and our conscience feels better.”

Chicken and turkey meat served at Puck’s restaurants will come from farms that are compliant with progressive animal welfare standards, and menus will feature more vegetarian selections, he said.

The venues also will only serve certified sustainable seafood.

Puck’s chefs will continue to kill lobsters by cutting them in half while they’re still alive, rather than by using stun guns. And stingray-like skate and Russian caviar, both of which are on an “avoid” list compiled by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, remain on his menus. His restaurants include Spago and Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Express.

The Humane Society applauded the efforts.

“Wolfgang Puck’s policies send a strong message to the agribusiness industry that it needs to start phasing out its most abusive practices,” said Wayne Pacelle, the group’s president and chief executive.

Banning any food, especially luxury ingredients, has been a thorny issue for chefs, who generally defend their right to use whatever they want.

Still, as Americans have had eating healthier food, many chefs at high-end restaurants, some smaller food-service chains and grocery chains like Whole Foods have refused to buy meat and eggs unless animals were raised under certain conditions.

In 2000, McDonald’s became the first major American food company to impose minimum animal-welfare standards such as increasing cage size on its egg producers.

California has decided to ban the production and sale of foie gras starting in 2012. Chicago imposed a ban last year, and bans are being promoted in Illinois, New Jersey and New York.