There’s a reason most self-respecting farmers and ranchers choose places like Culver’s instead of Chipotle when they are looking for a quick meal on the go — Chipotle chooses to spread falsehoods and perpetuate fairy tales to make a buck while Culver's supports modern food production and how sound science, technology and commonsense help feed a growing planet.
Most recently, Chipotle has stirred up some backlash on social media when a photo of a soda cup from the fast food chain went viral. The cup is covered from top to bottom in propaganda that reads: “When we think of dairy cows, most of us picture a vast countryside, rolling hills and cows happily grazing about. Sadly, most cows in the U.S. spend their days on concrete without access to pasture. In fact, they rarely go outside in general, making their chances of seeing a double rainbow pretty much impossible. We believe that cows should be out in the grass, talking about the weather and gossiping about cud and such. We source most of our cheese and sour cream from farms and suppliers that follow through on the pasture-raised promise, giving our friends (with dairy benefits) access to shelter and all the grazing they can handle, without antibiotics or growth hormones. What can we say? We like cows that dare to dairy differently.”
I’m not sure how long these cups (and whatever other propaganda they might have on burrito wrappers or bags) have been in circulation, but it’s very clear to me that the marketing team at Chipotle most likely has never visited a dairy farm and what they think they know about food production must come from YouTube and the Disney channel.
Ignoring the ridiculousness of the double rainbows and gossiping about cud and the weather, Chipotle is perpetuating the falsehood that cattle must be outside on expansive hills of grass in order to be happy. Much like feedlots are criticized for housing cattle in confinement, the dairy industry is also an easy target for animal welfare extremists.
Here are three points we need to tell our consumers about where their meat and dairy products come from and why Chipotle got it wrong, once again, about modern agriculture.
1. Essentials to life
Livestock need a few essentials to be happy — access to clean water, a well-balanced feed ration offered consistently each day and shelter from the elements. Modern dairy barns offer all three of these essentials and protect dairy cows from having to combat wind, flies, rain, snow, and extreme temperatures. Cows would not thrive well in nature on their own. They are domesticated, and as such, rely heavily on farmers to tend to their needs. In turn, these happy cows produce ample amounts of milk, meat and by-products to nourish families around the world.
Antibiotics, when used judiciously, are used to treat sick animals. When my kids are truly sick, I don’t hesitate to take them to my trusted pediatrician who prescribes them medicine to make them feel better. No, I don’t want them on antibiotics for every cough and sniffle, and livestock producers are the same way. It doesn’t make sense to pump cattle full of antibiotics; however, it would be unkind and abusive to not treat a sick cow when she needs it.
All foods naturally contain some levels of hormones, so nothing should be sold as “hormone-free.” Chipotle raised concerns about producers using growth hormones in animals to boost production, yet the science is clear that the increase found in that serving of beef or milk is minimal.
According to Amanda Blair, South Dakota State University meat scientist, “Beef from a non-implanted steer contains .85 units of estrogenic activity per 3 oz. serving, while beef from an implanted steer contains 1.2 units of estrogenic activity in the same serving.
"However, this amount is a fraction of what is found in many other common foods. For example the same quantity of eggs would provide 94 units of estrogenic activity and a 3 oz. serving of tofu would provide 19,306,004 units of estrogenic activity. In fact, a normal adult male produces 136,000 nanograms (ng) of estrogen per day while a non-pregnant woman produces 513,000 ng per day on average, making consumption of the levels of estrogen in implanted beef relatively inconsequential."
It goes without saying that I’ll continue to go elsewhere when I have a hankering for a burger, but Chipotle needs to be called out for its deceitful and despicable marketing tactics aimed at making people feel guilty about the food they eat and righteous and indignant about the people who try to make an honest living by caring for the land and tending to livestock in order to produce food. Shame on you, Chipotle. Agriculture is tired of your games, and I feel bad for your customers who are paying $10 for a burrito packed with lies.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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