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Chef Tom Colicchio Launches a Pioneering New Poultry Company

"If you can help solve climate change, and not really do anything different but order chicken, then why not?" the chef says.

If you're looking for an easy way to fight food waste and help solve climate change, then celebrity chef Tom Colicchio has a suggestion: buy some chicken—specifically, Do Good Chicken"It is my preferred chicken," Colicchio said during a press event introducing the new poultry products on Tuesday at his restaurant Vallata in New York City.

The pioneering poultry brand harvests chickens raised on a diet of what the company calls "surplus grocery food." That is, food waste: unwanted supermarket proteins and produce that usually wind up in a landfill. The new company claims that each of its chickens saves four pounds of otherwise wasted food and reduces three pounds of greenhouse gasses as a result.

"If you can help solve climate change, and not really do anything different but order chicken, then why not?" Colicchio said. "It's that easy." During the event, the famous chef served up Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches, chicken wings in a plum barbecue sauce, tortellini en brodo, and braised chicken thighs, all made with the eco-conscious proteins.

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The products debuted in NYC this week at Morton Williams supermarkets. They're also now available in other U.S. cities at select Acme, Albertson's, Giant, Safeway, Shaw's and Target locations.

Colicchio is an investor and advisor to the new company. Sam Kass, the one-time White House assistant chef under former President Barack Obama, is the company's chief strategy officer.

"The fact that we throw away 40 percent of the food that we grow is absolutely insane," said company co-founder Justin Kamine, who first discussed the idea with Colicchio at an unrelated event about six years ago. The whole concept is really just a modern spin on old-fashioned agriculture, as farmers used to feed their leftovers to the chickens out back, he explained.

Kamine said the company currently collects about 160 tons of unwanted food daily from supermarkets in the Philadelphia area, then converts the excess foodstuffs into nutrient-rich chicken feed at its $179 million production facility outside of Trenton, N.J. The feed is supplied to independent chicken farmers, primarily in Delaware, which produce the meat for the company. 

Kamine said the company is building similar multi-million-dollar facilities in Indiana and North Carolina, with the ultimate goal of opening 50 nationwide. It's also looking to expand its product line (breasts, things, wings, etc.) to include eggs as well.

With poultry prices now soaring—the average chicken breast currently costs $4.42 per pound, up 22% from last year, according to the latest government figures—Kamine said the company aims to make its products as "affordable and accessible to as many people as possible."

A nearly two-pound pack of Do Good-brand chicken breasts cost $15.46 at Morton Williams this week, or $7.99 per pound. That's a lot cheaper than the organic Smart Chicken brand ($16.99 per pound) but higher than the supermarket's basic chicken ($5.99 per pound).

When asked if the surplus-food diet created any noticeable difference in how the chicken tastes, chef Colicchio shrugged. "There's not a big difference between this chicken and other high-quality chicken," he said. "We've been all over doing taste tests with chefs, and every chef that tastes it, loves it."

He added, "I get that question a lot. Is there any difference? No. It tastes good, but there's no difference."

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris