03/25/2007 04:00 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Wolfgang Goes Humane

I'd like to give Wolfgang Puck a great big bear hug--the celebrity chef has teamed up with the Humane Society and Farm Sanctuary to set a higher standard for the treatment of farm animals. Together, they've crafted guidelines to counter the rampant animal cruelty of factory farming.

The nine-point program will be adopted by Puck's entire culinary empire, which includes umpteen upscale restaurants, franchises, catering and consumer products. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, is understandably delighted that Puck is using his star power to shine a light on one of the darkest aspects of agribiz:

"The HSUS commends Wolfgang Puck, his chefs, and his entire executive team for their ushering in of these historic animal welfare reforms. This voluntary program--the most far-reaching and comprehensive we have yet seen in the restaurant industry--will improve the lives of countless farm animals. Wolfgang Puck's policies send a strong message to the agribusiness industry that it needs to start phasing out its most abusive practices."

Puck was inspired to elevate his company's standards after hanging out at his local farmers' markets, "getting to know my vendors, their animals and their animal treatment programs. As my companies have grown much bigger, we must now develop formal policies to maintain our exacting standards. I want to be certain that only animals who are able to freely engage in natural behaviors are used to provide the products for our tables."

So Puck's saying au revoir to foie gras, battery cage eggs, gestation crates for sows, and veal crates. Menus will feature vegetarian and Certified Organic options; all seafood will be certified sustainable. And Puck will lobby poultry producers to adopt more humane slaughtering methods while sourcing his chicken and turkey products exclusively from farms that are third-party audited for compliance with higher animal welfare standards.

"If consumers could see how abused these animals can be, they would demand change," Puck noted. Puck's support gives the grassroots ethical eating movement a huge boost. Thanks to cookbooks like Jay Weinstein's The Ethical Gourmet and the brilliantly named website The Ethicurean ("chew the right thing"), there's a growing awareness that animal abuse is one of industrial agriculture's biggest by-products.

But it doesn't have to be, and with a celebrity of Puck's stature standing up for the animals, the factory farmers may soon feel as trapped by their backwards and barbaric practices, as, well, a crated sow.

So take your hat off to Puck, the HSUS, and Farm Sanctuary, and take a minute to send Puck a virtual pat on the back. Or a bloggy bear hug, like I did.