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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chipotle: Where Guac and Hypocrisy Cost You Extra

Maybe it’s the crushing heat we’re experiencing here in Kansas that has me so easily annoyed but upon reading the latest stupidity-driven marketing decision from Chipotle, I felt I needed to bring the blog out of dormancy and share my two dollars (two cents won’t cut it this time).


Chipotle restaurant storefront
Evil-looking, no?
Photo courtesy: Chance Hunley
A lot of my close friends and family will joke with me occasionally and say, "Hey let's go to Chipotle for lunch!" They do this because a) they know Chipotle’s marketing and business practices make my blood boil b) they like to see me get riled up c) they know very few people who despise Chipotle as much as I do and d) they are in agreement that the burrito giant is off its rocker when it comes to marketing and how it sources product.

If you need further reminding of why I despise this restaurant, you can add “hypocrisy runs rampant” to the long list of reasons I haven't eaten there since 2007.

If I were an American pig producer, I’d be ticked – I mean, I’m ticked already and I don’t even have a stake in this game. You may remember way back in January of this year, Chipotle said that carnitas would not be offered in all stores because one of their suppliers wasn’t adhering to the company’s holier-than-thou animal welfare standards. They made it out to be a pork “shortage.”

Do you know what those standards actually say? Let me tell you. Chipotle wanted a farmer, who had been raising pigs for 30 years, to cut a hole in the side of his barn so that the pigs inside could go outside in the snow and single digit temperatures. There are several reasons that pigs are raised indoors, which I’ve discussed before. They don’t have fur coats, they aren’t very hardy – they will get sick and die, or get eaten by a coyote. Raising pigs inside is safer and better for their wellbeing. Additionally, Chipotle has a “never-ever” policy on antibiotic use which gives a farmer two options, essentially. If a pig is sick the farmer can give the animal antibiotics and wait for the proper withdrawal time before sending the animal to slaughter, which ensures that no antibiotics enter the food supply (thousands upon thousands of responsible pig farmers do this to ensure safe pork products every day). In doing so and raising their animals humanely by providing health care, they are removing their animals from Chipotle’s supply chain. However, they can choose not to treat the animal and sell a sick pig (if it lives through the disease) to Chipotle for a supposed premium. You don’t need an advanced degree in animal science to realize that it’s whacko to deny health treatment to a sick animal. I wouldn’t do that to my dog or horses and I damn sure wouldn’t do it to an animal that I hope to be selling or would be using to feed my family.
A weanling piglet raised indoors
This pig, like so many others, is raised indoors to protect it from the elements and predators.
The thing with antibiotics is that they are a necessary tool that farmers need to help their animals in fighting off nasty bacteria. There are many times throughout a pig’s life that they are more susceptible to disease such as when a few groups of pigs that have never been around each other start buddying up. Think of it as kindergarten for piglets – all those little piggies hanging out on the monkey bars, sharing each other’s boogers and coughing on their hooves. Another example is if the weather turns nasty or chilly and some pigs get the swine equivalent of a sinus infection. These ailments call for treatment and it’s downright cruel to deny treatment to a sick animal.

Chipotle doesn’t care. Use antibiotics and those pigs can’t be marketed through their supply chain. To hell with animal welfare, they have to keep those $10/1000 calorie burritos pumping out the door.

So now that you have an idea of the bizarre thought process behind Chipotle’s animal welfare standards, let me get back to the hypocrite part.

Because there was a “shortage” of pork here in the U.S. (Lie. No shortage of responsibly raised pork or beef in the U.S.) good ole Chip jumped the pond and started sourcing pork from Karro Food, a U.K. based company. And guess what?

Karro Food is allowed to use antibiotics in the event of illness in the swine herd.

When asked why the restaurant tyrant decided to let Karro Food, a foreign company, use antibiotics on sick animals but refused to extend that same standard to American producers, this is what Chipotle replied with:

“Our decision to source pork from this new supplier does not mean that Chipotle’s animal welfare protocols are changing at this time. While we prefer to buy pork raised entirely without antibiotics, we are proud to be serving pork from Karro because the responsible way Karro uses antibiotics is consistent with their extremely high animal welfare standards.”
Chipotle also did a nice job of explaining how antibiotics are used responsibly by farmers, but apparently only on U.K. pork farms. Too bad they couldn’t just allow all farmers this necessary technology instead of continually weaving a web of consumer misinformation. They stated:

“This does not mean that antibiotics are present in the meat. All animals treated with antibiotics (both in Europe and the U.S.) must undergo a withdrawal period before they are slaughtered, which means that meat from a pig treated with antibiotics will not contain antibiotic residue, just like meat from an animal that was never given antibiotics.”
This befuddles me. I have no idea why they would actually move to use reasonable science messages to defend antibiotics use in one country but not in another, when both are comparable in their animal welfare protocols. Hey Chipotle, here’s a #TruthBomb, pull your nose down out of the air long enough to take a look around fly-over country and you’ll find that American farmers use antibiotics responsibly too.

I honestly don’t even know how to explain how I feel about this. Even more so, I cannot fathom what it must be like to be so unabashedly hypocritical. My best guess is that Chipotle needs a large supplier and Karro can accommodate their needs; however, Karro isn’t willing to back down from responsible antibiotic use because they have a good handle on common sense.

So there you go – another slap to the American farmer’s face from an unhealthy burrito kingpin. The good news is that people are starting to wake up to the vicious scheming of Chipotle. If you have spare time, read a few of these recent links.





In the meantime, I’ll continue to be a loyal patron of Qdoba. It’s more fun to pronounce and the food isn’t soured with the taste of guilt and farmer’s tears.

Until next time,
Buzzard

**Point of clarification: This post is not me saying that organic or natural pork production is wrong, cruel or unnecessary. This post is about Chipotle's BLATANT hypocrisy regarding their double standards for pork production between U.S. and U.K. producers. Agriculture needs all kinds of people and all kinds of production; there is room for everyone. I have mentioned in comments below that instead of convention aland organic getting up in arms against each other, we need to link arms and fight against these animal rights extremists and anti-technology advocates. If you have further comments regarding organic/natural and conventional, feel free to contact me (email is on About Me page). As always, civil discourse is appropriate and I appreciate your comments and feedback.

15 comments:

  1. S. Marie CarlsonJuly 23, 2015 at 9:45 AM

    Actually, Chipotle does care about the well-fare of the animals, which is why it doesn't want antibotics. There are natural antibotic alternatives that can be used on pigs, and humans too. The overuse of antibiotics in our meat is what is causing the antibiotics to not work in people quite as well. My family raises heritage pork, outdoors, on pasture, no barns, and in single digit Wisconsin winters. Guess what, they are healthy, have fur and taste better than any antibiotic stuffed pig raised in a barn. We don't feed GMOs or soy and have had excellent results. The meat is healthier, and the flavor and texture is amazing. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree, American Farmers are not getting a slap in the face, maybe just a wake up call to those in the industry of raising commodity pork. The way this country is going with manure pits and chemicals seeping into the water table, and GMOs sneaking into our food supply isn't sustainable or good for us, or our animals. There are reasons why so much fertilizer and other 'gunk' has to be added to the fields in order for the 'franken-corn' and 'zombie-soy' to grow. There simply isn't any nutrition left in the soils that have been depleted by over farming of the same single crop or two crops every year. It is just simply ridiculous and something has to change, luckily there has been great success in sustainable farming practices and truly organic foods (not the farms that say they are organic but still use conventional practices, like feed lots, etc). People are healthier who choose to eat an organic, whole foods lifestyle. I think everyone just needs to wake up and see the impact industrial agriculture is having on the nation.

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    1. Hello S. Marie Carlson, If you like organic, you have every right to eat it. It is a great specialty niche in agriculture that people are getting rich off of because of consumer opinions. But don't wonder why people are going hungry though organic practices. Organic is not practical. And in addition, there are so many companies that claim "organic" and "natural". What is the definition of natural? Isn't everything natural? Isn't natural selection of animals, evolution, survival of the fittest and cross pollinating all natural occurrences? There is also no scientific evidence that organic foods create any sort of health advantage to the consumer. Also, I suggest you look up farming practices, such as crop rotation and cover crops and manure management strategies, which help to restore the soil and soil quality. Even if you plant organic soybeans and corn, they will strip the soil of nutrients. I think that this is an excellent read. Antibiotics are a necessity if agriculture is going to feed billions of people with very few resources. I feel more comfortable knowing that the pork I am eating lived a healthy life and was treated humanely. I don't want to eat a diseased pork chop, knowing that the pig probably suffered through weeks of illness. Your small sustainable family farm may work for you and can feed a few people, but not billions. Chipotle is a disgrace.

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    2. S. Marie Carlson - the point of this article about Chipotle being hypocrites is that they are breaking their own set of rules for UK producers but holding US producers to a different set of standards. That is the definition of hypocrisy.
      In terms of your statements around GMOs, there is not one scientifically sound study, anywhere, that proves GMOs are unhealthy or harmful. Nor is there evidence to support that eating animals which have consumed GMOs is harmful to humans. Meat without GMOs or antibiotics is not, as you say, "healthier." USDA and FDA have stated that on their properties that organic is not better for your.

      You have your choice to raise organic products and that is fine but Chipotle needs to stop pitting one group against the other. We collectively as American producers should be linking arms against Chipotle instead of you, an organic/natural producer, attacking me, a person who helps raise conventional beef and whose family is a conventional farm family.

      Also, on your topic of large farms and ranches or feedyards, where does it say that organic has to be small? Organic can be large and still adhere to the standards set forth by USDA. That's a common misnomer: consumers believe that organic is small farms or ranches, set on 20 acres or something with not very many animals when in all actuality there are many organic producers who run thousands of acres and/or animals. There is also a big misconception that organic producers can't use pesticides, which is also incorrect. There is a lot of misinformation out there about animal agriculture in general, and we should be working together to combat it instead of ganging up on each other.

      I could go on with your accusations against conventional agriculture but instead I will just list a few links to read regarding the extensive safety of GMOs, if you are interested:
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/09/17/the-debate-about-gmo-safety-is-over-thanks-to-a-new-trillion-meal-study/
      http://factsaboutbeef.com/2013/11/18/gmo-feeds-are-safe-for-animals-meat-safe-for-humans/

      Thanks for reading - I appreciate the discourse.

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  2. Please wake up to the truth. Watch Vegucated, Cowspiracy, A River of Waste, Forks Over Knives and Earthlings. Animal Agriculture will be the death of the planet. I am a KSU alum and am ashamed to have that in common with you. I moved away from the Midwest to broaden my view and guess what the world is waking up and going vegan. Get past your antiquated ideals and make the changes needed to sustain the growing population of humans. We cannot do that with animal products- that make us secondary consumers, we must go vegan and become primary consumers and cut out the "middle man" of animal products.

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    1. If I were going to try to make money off of a documentary, I would only do research and create documentation that was as one sided to my controversial point as possible. I wouldn't stand to gain from giving a balanced perspective. But if I were creative enough, I could make my content so emotionally upsetting that people would just eat it right up (pardon the pun).

      You should never point to these documentaries as facts that support your argument. Do your own research.

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    2. Thank you, Jamie, for your contribution to the conversation. I agree.

      Anonymous (I need to stop allowing anonymous comments), I have seen Cowspiracy, in fact. And Food Inc. And King Corn. I stay up to date on what animal rights extremists are saying about my family and livelihood. But since I live it and know what actually happens, I don't believe their selective media production.

      We cannot all go vegan - where do you think all of the kale, strawberries, lettuce and other fruits and veggies will be grown? California has no rain and that is the main growing point for these kinds of food. California also doesn't have the land mass to produce enough plant-based food if we get rid of eating meat (nowhere close actually). Kansas (where I proudly live) cannot produce those kinds of food that you would love to have at your fingertips year round. You have lived in the Flint Hills - have you ever examined the soil or topography? Let me tell you - there is about three inches of top soil and then hard rock. Everywhere. Thousands and thousands of acres of that. Those lands have been home to native species such as bison, birds, lizards and other native wildlife for thousands of years. Cattle are the best way to utilize those lands for food - by keeping those acres in grass for protein production, we provide habitat for 75% of the nation's wildlife. If we (tried) to plow it all up to plant [insert crop], we would rip a habitat away from precious wildlife and ineffectively produce food.

      I would hope that you would do your own research. Visit with farmers, ask questions, go to a ranch. I would be more than happy to help facilitate any tours you would like to go on so if you are interested in learning more from the folks who produce your food, please let me know. My email is on the About Me page - thanks for reading and commenting.

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    4. A KSU alum who is ashamed you are a graduate of one of the finest ag schools in the country? That is just sad. Hopefully one day you will wake up, come back home, and realize what a foolish mistake you made rejecting your Midwest upbringing. Foolish people like you will be the death of this planet, not farmers and ranchers who care for the land every day.

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    5. Hmmm, I guess the UN doesn't know what it is talking about?

      http://www.eater.com/2015/2/16/8048069/un-says-veganism-can-save-the-world-from-destruction

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet

      Plus here is a WHOLE page of cited facts regarding how detrimental animal agriculture is.

      http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/

      I cannot expect you to want to see the truth though as your income is based on supporting animal ag. If you were not blinded by the profits you make off the animals blood, sweat and tears you would see the truth. All I can do is speak for the animals and the planet. I make ZERO money off of this, this is my activism- my contribution to end the suffering that animal ag brings to our little planet.

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    6. Anything listed as "facts" on a website that is called COWSPIRACY is clearly not facts, and shows huge bias. I am appalled that you even listed that here.

      I make no money off this blog and I have a M.S. in animal welfare and behavior. I am trained to help reduce animal stress and suffering and I am confident that the practices farmers and ranchers use to raise animals are not only developed with the animal in mind, but are also more efficient and allow us to raise more food with fewer natural resources that we did 10, 20, 50 years ago.

      The UN has since recanted their statements from Livestock's Long Shadow and much more accurate numbers have been released from that organization. Do yourself, and everyone else a favor, and please go use updated resources from unbiased agencies.

      Also, being an anonymous commenter is pretty yellow and spineless.

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  3. Excellent write-up. I agree across the board. I refuse to buy "antibiotic free" meats because I want my meat to be raised so if it needed antibiotics, it got them. I'm sick of the nonsense of "Natural alternative" treatments, because I've personally seen animals continue to go downhill and eventually die while being treated with "organic, natural homeopathic" remedies. The owners were more concerned with their hipster labeling than with the animal's welfare.
    And vegan is not going to save the world. Period. End of discussion. Vegan is a cute choice. It won't feed the billion people on the planet. Plus, every pet I own eats meat. I've raised my own chickens and butchered my own goats and I can say that raising a chicken to butcher size like most "all natural" places claim to do, or like most backyard 'farmers' do means that one chicken cost you over $20 to produce. $20 chickens do not feed the hungry people.

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    1. Thanks, Wolfyhound, for reading and chiming in! I think my favorite part is the "$20 chickens do not feed hungry people!"

      I agree - vegan is a choice that only a few make and actually, MANY vegetarians and vegans return to eating meat. Here is an example of that exact phenomenon: http://factsaboutbeef.com/2015/02/11/what-do-justin-bieber-bill-clinton-and-ozzy-osbourne-all-have-in-common/

      Thanks again for reading - hope you become a regular (if you aren't already).

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    2. All meat sold in the US is "antibiotic free". Meat from animals that have been administered antibiotics must go through a withdrawal period that is based on the type of antibiotic, the route of administration, etc before it can be harvested as meat. So the meat you buy is ALL antibiotic free.
      -Dan Linden

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