Business

New midstate company to distribute meat from farms to restaurants, retailers

D’Artagnan, a distributor of organic, antibiotic and hormone-free meats, uses its own trucks — seen here at the company’s New Jersey headquarters — to transport fresh meat to restaurants, hotels and grocery stores.
D’Artagnan, a distributor of organic, antibiotic and hormone-free meats, uses its own trucks — seen here at the company’s New Jersey headquarters — to transport fresh meat to restaurants, hotels and grocery stores.

A national food distributor that has specialized in organic, antibiotic and hormone-free meats for 30 years, is coming to Macon.

D’Artagnan LLC, “a purveyor of gourmet meat and delicacies,” is planning to move this summer into about 15,000 square feet of space at 787 Hillcrest Blvd., said company founder, owner and CEO Ariane Daguin.

Last week, Daguin was in Georgia to meet with professional chefs in Atlanta and other areas, and in about two weeks, she plans to meet with a group of farmers about supplying fresh product for her company to distribute.

“We decided on Macon because it is around an hour-and-a-half from Atlanta south, but also it does correspond to being involved anywhere within one day to a big part of Florida,” Daguin said. “We are already sending quite a bit in Florida. ... Orlando is growing very fast so we just felt that Macon was a perfect place to be able to service and have good service” from Atlanta to “most of the Florida clientele that we have.”

I like the south, and I like the spirit of the south.

Ariane Daguin, founder, owner and CEO of D’Artagnan LLC

D’Artagnan is named after a real-life musketeer who lived 1613-1673 and made famous by the novel, “The Three Musketeers.” Owner Daguin is the daughter of Gascon Chef Andre (with accent over e) Daguin, and she “represents the seventh generation of a French food and restaurant legacy,” according to her bio.

Founded in 1985, D’Artagnan has grown to be a $111-million-a-year company with product featured in more than 7,500 restaurants and sold in grocery stores across the country.

Daguin said she is “very, very excited” about the move to Georgia.

“I like the South, and I like the spirit of the South and where I come from is what we consider the south of France,” she said. “There are some equal characteristics as far as taking the time and the quality of life. And I’m really glad that we found something in Macon (pronouncing it like the French city), which sounds really French to me.”

The Union, New Jersey-based company, which has a total of nearly 270 employees, expanded about seven years ago by setting up a distribution center in Chicago and again about two years ago in Houston, Texas.

“So now we see the development in Atlanta, and feel it is exactly where Chicago was when we did this and where Houston was when we did this,” she said. “We have our own trucks and we ship directly to our clients.”

About 60-65 percent of the company’s business is with hotels and restaurants with the rest being to retail stores, and about 5 percent is its e-commerce business directly to consumers, she said.

The company is renting the space in Macon, “but we have big hopes,” Daguin said. “Eventually, like we did in Chicago, hopefully, we will buy a much bigger place.”

The warehouse on Hillcrest Boulevard previously was used for dry storage, so Daguin said she is installing refrigeration in the space.

“The docks are already there, office space is there, and it’s in pretty good shape,” she said. “It needs to be refreshed, but nothing major. … The only risk is it will become too small too fast.

“I believe by July 1, we should start delivering directly to Atlanta restaurants.”

D’Artagnan already has a sales person in Atlanta and is looking to hire a second one, Daguin said. In Macon, the company is expected to initially employ four people.

“As we grow, we will add more drivers and trucks and more employees,” she said.

Interested job seekers may apply online at http://www.dartagnan.com by going to the careers link. Interviews are expected to begin in June.

Company will distribute product from local farmers

Daguin partners with small family farms that are dedicated to the natural production of high quality and healthy meat, game and poultry. She is known as a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement and introduced the first organic, free-range chicken years before the USDA allowed the word “organic” on the label.

“We try to get as local as we can,” she said. “One, because it makes sense economically with less transportation. … But, also, because that way we have control — we are the ones who give the specifications to the group of farmers.”

She plans to meet with some farmers in a couple of weeks.

“It’s a long process to create a group of farmers, not because of the farmer, because they want to raise (the animals) the right way. They like our program — we pay very well. Yes, we are very picky on the breed of the animals and the space for the animals, but we pay better, so that’s not the problem. The problem is where to process the animals.

“It’s a little too early for me to say anything, but I have high hopes.”

While the company’s products may not be found now in Middle Georgia grocery stores, Daguin said that might change after the Macon distribution center is in operation.

“Basically, we sell everything in general within three days of receiving it because we need stores and restaurants to be able to have some shelf life before it’s sold,” she said. “Poultry, for example, has a very limited shelf life. Between the slaughter, the transportation and storing it at the maximum of three days, that gives a chance to the retail store to have almost two weeks, which is what they need (to get the product to the consumer.”

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz

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