Wolfgang Puck has nailed his own nine-point animal welfare improvement program to the door of gastronomy: “I want to be a leader on the issue of how we treat the animals we eat,” says he. The program, announced today, has as its first item the elimination of foie gras from all of Puck’s restaurants; other declarations involve not using eggs, pork or veal harvested from caged or crated animals, “featur[ing] delicious vegetarian options” and including “Certified Organic selections on its menus,” and serving only certified sustainable seafood.

The newsworthy nature of this has much to do, of course, with its economic ramifications—although the foie gras part of it all is what’s grabbing headlines. (The announcement also conveniently coincides with both Spago‘s 25th anniversary and the recent news about a Puck catering employee having hepatitis A.) It’s hard to imagine many people caring if a small organic restaurant made similar proclamations, but Puck estimates his companies’ value as $360 million. He seems sincere (“It’s time for us to make a statement and a time for us to see how we treat what we eat”), and is realistic and clear about both the fact that “healthy animals taste better,” and that there is occasional trade-off, as with veal, for instance: non-crated calf meat “has more flavor. But it can be tougher.” 

Puck worked with the Humane Society in making his move. Not clear is how involved was Farm Sanctuary, the animal rights group legally entangled in our city’s foie gras debate. The group, which has been leafletting at Puck’s restaurants and was behind the online protest site wolfgangpuckcruelty.org, claims to have influenced him. Says the chef: “People coming here once a week with signs has nothing to do with my decision. The protest didn’t affect me at all.”