My mother-in-law attended an agricultural conference at a Hyatt Regency earlier this summer and found the food they served to be interesting, to say the least. Every food item was labeled to describe exactly where and how it was raised and produced, she told me. She found it curious that none of the agvocates in the room commented on the cage-free eggs or organic yogurt made from milk from grass-fed cows. And she really was curious why an agricultural group would ever host a meeting at a Hyatt Regency.
Don’t misunderstand. Neither my mother-in-law or I have a problem with organic or grass-fed or cage-free or any of the other new, trendy ways food is marketed these days. But when it’s presented in a way that implies that foods from traditional agricultural practices are evil, then it’s time to speak up.
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I looked up Hyatt’s foodservice program, and was intrigued to see it centers around a campaign called, “Food Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served.” Menu items include things like organic chicken, naturally-cured bacon, organic smoothies and local sorghum syrup.
This sure sounds an awful lot like Chipotle’s campaign, “Food With Integrity,” where you can buy a burrito with a side of guilt.
READ: Forget Chipotle's Negativity; Culver's Champions For Agriculture
There is a fast-growing trend for consumers to know more about where their food comes from and how it was raised. Conventional, modern food production is seen as “factory farming” and small, specialized niche food items are seen as the utopia.
A simple burger and fries from McDonald’s is seen as a morally-corrupt food choice. Do you want fries with that burger? Sure, but only if the beef is all-natural, grass-fed and organic, and the potatoes were raised organically, with no pesticides, fertilizers or GMOs.
This mentality comes from the notion that modern technology is bad, and anyone who utilizes these tools must be corrupt. There is a certain mistrust between producers and consumers, and the gap is widening through shady marketing campaigns like that of the Hyatt and Chipotle.
Kevin Murphy, blogger at “Truth In Food,” describes the situation perfectly, citing the Food Morality Movement as a big issue we need to be concerned about in agriculture.
In his most-recent blog post entitled, “Has Hyatt Simply Dressed Up Chipotle’s Message With White Tablecloths?” Murphy writes, “For several years now I have been warning the agricultural community of the swift and unfettered advancement of the Food Morality Movement. This movement condemns agriculture and challenges it to explain its behavior based on the grounds of religion, ethics and morality.”
The Hyatt Regency has 508 locations in 46 countries, and Murphy says, “With that kind of market presence, the Hyatt has the ability to influence millions of people every day with a global Food Thoughtfully Sourced campaign catapulting them into the category of the Chipotle of hotels!” Murphy says that Hyatt’s Food Thoughtfully Sourced campaign, established in 2011, has “created a false dichotomy dividing our food system in two, with one side being the pristine, natural and organic side and the other technological, conventional and ultimately evil.”
Murphy started an online petition to tell Hyatt to reconsider its marketing campaign. You can sign that petition here.
Do you think Hyatt is the new Chipotle? How should the industry respond to this food morality movement? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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