Answering Chipotle

ANSWERING CHIPOTLE: Chipotle restaurants have built their business by attacking American agriculture with ads portraying the American farmer as someone  who doesn’t care about the environment and making statements about their ingredients being hormone free, GMO free and antibiotic free. In fact they are conning the American public into thinking that their 1,500 calorie burrito is somehow better for you than food offered at other fast-food restaurants.
Recently Subway Sandwich Shops announced that the chain will be requiring suppliers to provide “antibiotic –free” meat to their stores. The Pantera Bread Co. has made a similar requirement of their suppliers. Chipotle has however deiced to market their products through attacks on traditional agriculture.

Dr. Scott Hurd, a veterinarian, spent the last years of his life investigating the claims made by Chipotle (and consumer activist groups) and informing the public about the misleading ad campaigns made by the fast-food chain. Some of these include:

  1. Chipotle promotes a local farm profile and is critical of big processing food suppliers. The deception is that its food is processed in large factories and the company shares a distribution chain with McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Chick-fil-A.
  2. Chipotle deceptively advertises its beef as free of added hormones. It doesn’t mention that all beef is low in hormones—lower than its pinto beans and tofu that have significantly higher levels of hormones.
  3. Chipotle claims its food is free of genetically modified ingredients. Yet that’s not true of Chipotle’s soda, and livestock used for Chipotle meat can be fed genetically modified corn and grains up until the day they are processed for food.
  4. Chipotle used to claim its meat didn’t come from animals that had been given antibiotics. Recently Chipotle quietly changed its standard on treating sick animals with medicines because it is getting meat from Europe. You won’t see that switch prominently advertised.

More chain restaurants (such as Subway) are being pressured by and succumbing to consumer activist groups to not purchase meat from animals that have been treated with antibiotics. The term antibiotic-free is a bit of a misnomer. According to Bill Wenzel, Antibiotics Program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, (one of the consumer activist groups) the PIRG is not calling for a total ban on antibiotics, which are at times necessary to treat sick animals. What the group seeks to eliminate is the routine overuse of antibiotics for growth promotion or wide-scale disease prevention. Routine use of antibiotics is mainly seen in large-scale farming operations, where animals are kept in close, confined areas that often become breeding grounds for transmitting illnesses. Addressing the routine use of antibiotics—mainly seen with cattle and pigs—thus requires a change in farming practices.

Three states attempted to pass bills that would enact state-level policies. In Oregon and Maryland neither bill was voted into law. California is the one notable exception. Earlier this month the state signed into law legislation banning the use of antibiotics not prescribed by a veterinarian, including routine antibiotics for disease prevention.

We can expect more activist groups misleading the consumer with claims that accepted agricultural practices are harming our food supply. American agriculture needs to carry on the work started by the late Dr Scott Hurd and answer their outrageous claims with science and by not patronizing businesses that mislead the public and attack agriculture.

by: Brent Olmstead

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