I'll Find My Burritos Elsewhere

Nebraska Notebook

Chipolte and Panera Bread marketing strategies attack farmers.

Published on: October 21, 2013

It's the inevitable question my wife and I pose to each other at the end of the work day: what's for supper? Sometimes neither of us is willing to commit to an answer. And too often, my response is, "Let's go out to eat."

One of several eating establishments in Lincoln we've patronized in the past is Panera Bread. I won't patronize them again, just like I won't make my first-ever dining experience at Chipotle Mexican Grill. Panera Bread has joined the latter in creating misleading marketing campaigns that attack modern agriculture, which of course, includes thousands of family farms.

Their campaigns claim, among other falsehoods, that farmers and ranchers wantonly use antibiotics on animals and that those antibiotics remain in the food at the retail level. Producers must abide by withdrawal times on products used, including antibiotics, and USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors monitor carcasses at slaughter for any drug residues, including antibiotics. That doesn't stop Panera Bread and the others from spreading that claim. 

As chains go, Chipotle Mexican Grill is the leader of the anti-agriculture misinformation campaign. Its latest effort involves a "Scarecrow" which is featured in a video working to bring "real food" to consumers. In its previous animated video efforts, mostly aimed at young people, Chipotle featured a farmer who, after realizing his "factory farm" approach was wrong, opens barn doors and pens to allow livestock to win their freedom and run free.

Panera Bread's EZ Campaign spouts the evils of antibiotic use, too, and claims producers who use them are lazy and poor managers. To me, it's much lazier for them to pull the standard and tired "factory farm" slogan of the shelf.

It's interesting to see the lengths to which corporate America sometimes goes to market products. In my view, these campaigns are less about animal welfare and more about putting themselves on a pedestal of compassion for the sake of promoting their restaurants. They choose to attack this country's farmers and ranchers for their own gain.

Ag interests have responded to the campaign, spelling out the misinformation involved and asking the chains to cease perpetuating these falsehoods.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau recently wrote the chairman co-CEO of Chipotle to criticize the "Scarecrow" campaign for "disparaging American farmers, American agriculture and the American Food System. The 'Scarecrow' campaign is narrow mined in scope and is quite frankly an oversimplication of food issues that go well beyond simply serving burritos to the customers who walk through Chipolte's door."

The campaign attacks the same people who support their local communities, local food pantries and fill churches on Sunday, according to the Farm Bureau letter.

Neither chain seriously addresses the issues of hunger and food insecurity, in this country or overseas. To me, that's more arrogance and indifference than it is compassion.

No thanks, Panera Bread and Chipotle's. I can get my specialty sandwiches and burritos at other less expensive eating establishments in Lincoln. Considering the fascinating array of food choices available today and the multitude of restaurant options, there is no need to patronize either of these two chains.