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Et Tu, Wolfgang? Some chefs battle growing humane farming trend

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Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter made no friends among the chef community when he renounced foie gras two years ago.

In fact he heard a chorus of Hypocrites and You-Think-THAT'S-Bads.

"Look how much veal this country goes through with all the Italian restaurants and the scallopinis," said rival chef Rick Tramonto of Chicago's Tru restaurant. "Yes, there are certain farms that are going to treat those veal better than others, but still at the end of the day it's killing those babies, right?"

"There are so many things people eat every day that are raised in an inhumane way," agreed Paul Kahan, chef at Chicago's Blackbird. "The way chickens are raised, if people saw it… commodity pork, I could just go on."

What about rabbit and squab shot back Grant Achatz, the young chef at Alinea.

But maybe Trotter detractors spoke too soon.

This week celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck announced he was renouncing foie gras AND veal and pork from crated animals.

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AND eggs from battery-caged hens.

AND all animals not allowed to "freely engage in natural behaviors."

P.S. He renounced seafood that wasn't certified sustainable, too.

"It's time to usher in a new era of animal treatment," said Puck simply. He didn't need to add two wrongs don't make a right.

Wolfgang's Eating, Loving and Living (WELL) program will affect almost 100 restaurants and 10 million served by his 43 catering venues.

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But it will make life harder for chefs still attached to cruel entrees.

Because like labeling milk rBGH-free or eggs cage-free, the WELL program shows it's economically possible to be more humane--and puts the onus on those who aren't.

The initiative may even spawn a backlash group like Chicago Chefs for Choice which sprung up last year to fight Chicago's foie gras ban.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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