A kinder, gentler way to have dinner

Friday, May 14, 2004

UPPERVILLE, Va. -- At the Hunter's Head Tavern, "guilt-free dining" has nothing to do with calories or carb counts.

The English pub in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains this week became the first restaurant in the nation to get an animal welfare group's stamp of approval for the humane treatment of the animals on its menu -- from the beef stew to the shepherd's pie.

So it's OK to order veal as long as it hasn't been mistreated.

"Consumers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from," said Adele Douglass, executive director of Humane Farm Animal Care. The group's certification offers assurance that the meat or poultry on the plate was not raised in inhumane conditions, she said.

In the case of Hunter's Head, about 50 miles west of the nation's capital, nearly all of the meat and some of the produce comes from nearby Ayrshire Farms.

The restaurant and farm are owned by Sandy Lerner, who made a fortune as co-founder of Cisco Systems and uses the restaurant to showcase the quality of organic and humanely raised fare from her farm.

"We want to introduce people to looking at food in a new way," she said.

A vegetarian for much of her life, Lerner said she understands that some people believe killing an animal for food is inhumane, no matter how well the animal is treated in life or how painless the method of slaughter is.

Still, she says, "People are going to eat meat. But if I get you to eat one of my humanely raised turkeys, then that's one that Butterball doesn't kill."

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