Ariane Daguin

Her 35-year-old gourmet meat company anticipated--and shaped--the sustainable, locavore trends today.

Food Revolutionaries
George Faison
 Photo Credit: Courtesy subject

In 1985, a young Frenchwoman living in New York City cofounded a small operation to sell duck livers and other exotic proteins to gourmet restaurants. Thirty-five years later, Ariane Daguin still entirely owns that business, D’Artagnan, which she has built into a profitable, $132 million organic-meat distributor with a near-national network of small farmers and artisanal suppliers. D’Artagnan was one of the first companies to introduce organic free-range chickens to American chefs and home cooks. It also anticipated, and shaped, the locavore movement now sweeping through our food system. “My animals have one bad day,” is how Daguin, now 61, sums up the philosophy of humane, sustainable farming underlying her business. Along the way, she overcame a wrenching breakup with her co-founder and ongoing regulatory battles over foie gras, the controversial and luxurious duck livers with which she launched her company. But neither challenge has stopped Daguin from building her revenue, which she’s aiming to double in the next five years, or her business operations, which she has expanded to Denver and soon, she hopes, to California. “I’m going into totally unknown territory,” says Daguin of her company’s recent growth. “It’s new, but it’s very exciting.” --Maria Aspan