I’m a little grumpy at a lot of the food marketing that’s going on lately.
Perdue recently aired a new commercial talking about how all their chicken is now vegetarian-fed and never ever has any added hormones or steroids. “Because we believe that if you wouldn’t feed it to your family, we shouldn’t give it to our chickens.”
The teeny-tiny fine print (that you almost need a magnifying glass to read) says that “Federal law prohibits the use of hormones or steroids in poultry.” (Image is actual size.)
Panera has also started serving only antibiotic-free chicken on their menu, in their “Live Consciously Eat Deliciously” campaign.
I don’t have a problem with any of these choices, by the companies or by the consumers who purchase from them.
I do have some issues with their marketing. Chipotle’s TV commercial, “Back to the Start” made it look like conventional farmers view their animals only as units of production, and will use whatever means necessary to maximize that production.
Perdue proudly says “we never use added hormones or steroids in our chicken.” Even though it is illegal in the US to use hormones or steroids in chicken or turkey. Always. No poultry raised in the US is raised with hormones or steroids.
Panera says that their vegetarian-fed chicken tastes “clean and simple” (a catch phrase that shows up every time they talk about chicken) and tastes as chicken “was meant to taste”. (Nevermind that, left to their own devices, chickens will eat bugs, grubs, and worms. They are not exactly vegetarians. And perhaps a vegetarian diet is not completely “natural” for chickens.) They have even launched an “EZ Chicken” campaign that implies that farmers who do use antibiotics when needed for their chickens are taking the easy, lazy way out.
Here’s the deal.
Please, choose organic, or free-range, or antibiotic-free, or gluten-free, or whatever your personal choice for your lifestyle is. Go for it. And I will applaud you for standing up for your food decision and making that choice.
But don’t try to make me feel guilty because I don’t make the same food choices.
And don’t rely only on negative marketing to promote your product. If you truly believe that vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free chicken is the best way to go (as these companies apparently do), that’s wonderful. But market your product with positive messages as to why that is better, not with negative messages as to why the other is worse.
We all need to eat. And the US is one lucky country in that we can produce enough food to feed everyone (and then some). We are very lucky in that less than 9% of our annual income goes towards groceries, plus another 6% towards eating out in restaurants (according to 2011 data). We are very lucky that many of us can afford to make the more expensive choices at the grocery store if we feel that is a better choice for us and for our families.
But not everyone is that lucky. Some people struggle just to put a meal on the table, let alone worry about if the lettuce was organic, if the beef was treated with antibiotics when it got sick, if the chickens were fed only vegetables, or if the corn in their cereal was genetically modified.
There are lots of food options, and there is a place for everyone in the grocery store. Let’s try to keep this food fight civil. Pitting one kind of farmer against another is only going to make the divide bigger.
I’ll make my food choices, and you can make yours. But let’s not fight about it. I won’t try to convince you that my way is the best way by talking trash about your way, if you agree to do the same. If we need to agree to disagree about our choices, so be it. I’m fine with that.
There are plenty of other things to fight about, and plenty of other things to feel guilty about. Let’s try to keep food out of it.
Coming up later this week, what I see as some unintended consequences of these food fights.