Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Antibiotic-Free and Responsibly Raised?

There’s a trend with restaurants today who find value in promoting their meat as “antibiotic-free” or “hormone-free” or “responsibly raised”. They position these products as better quality and ask that consumers pay more for that “quality”. This strategy might sell more chicken sandwiches and burritos, but it’s bad for livestock and poultry farmers. Why? It’s misleading causing unnecessary fear of food.

Is this meat healthier, tastier or come from animals that were treated better just because marketing campaigns say it’s so? NO!

There are companies and farms that offer meat from animals that have never been given antibiotics. If you choose to buy those products because you want to support the practice of never giving animals antibiotics, that’s fine, but you should know that meat from these farms are not guaranteed to be free from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The meat is not any safer than the meat that does not make that claim,” according to a mom with a Ph.D. in meat science.  

The latest company to jump on the bandwagon of marketing their chicken as “antibiotic-free” is Panera Bread. They go so far as to call farmers who use antibiotics “lazy”.

A fellow dairy producer, Carrie, wrote this great blog Asking Panera Bread Company to explain their pill-popping EZ chicken campaign which belittles farmers who use antibiotics. “I mean really, who in the world would approve a marketing campaign that insults the very people that provide every scrap of ingredient that makes your product? But wait you say, Panera isn’t calling all farmers and ranchers lazy! They are just calling the ones that use antibiotics lazy! I used antibiotics to help a sick calf get better last week, my friends the organic farmers had a cow with pneumonia and they gave that cow antibiotics to make her better. They had to sell her, but she lived. Does that mean we are lazy? Is it lazy to take care of our sick animals?” asks Carrie.

She followed up with another blog sharing Panera Bread’s response to her questions. Check it out at Panera has to say for themselves#PluckEZChicken. Here’s a picture of EZ Chicken Panera Bread created and Carrie shared - nothing like creating a pill shaped chicken to get your point across and sell more chicken sandwiches!
Thanks to Carrie for having the courage to question Panera Bread publicly!

Chipotle advertises their meat as “Responsibly Raised”. They purchase only “naturally raised” meat and claim to have to “work hard to find farmers who meet their standards”. Chipotle’s message is, in a nutshell,  the majority of U.S. livestock and poultry farmers are doing a poor job with their animals. This is absolutely not true. Farmers are committed to caring for their animals.  Excellent animal care is a priority with all the farmers I know. Providing an optimal living environment, quality feed, fresh water, and medical treatment when necessary is not the exception, it's the rule.

It seems everyone is a livestock/poultry care expert these days. Why is it that people who’ve never been on a farm, and have no experience with farm animals, think they are experts who need to dictate animal care standards to farmers who spend every day caring for animals? The idea that only a small percentage of farmers “responsibly raise” their animals or only “lazy” farmers use antibiotics is ridiculous. The majority of farmers are intelligent, educated people who make decisions based on science, experience, facts and what is best for the animal. There is a reason for everything done on a farm and that reason centers around animal welfare.

Panera and Chipotle are not the first restaurants that use these tactics to sell food and they won’t be the last. It’s a shame that they feel the need insult the majority of farmers in order to sell burritos and chicken sandwiches. If you have questions about food, I encourage you to check out these reliable sources. The factual information you’ll find here is actually from people who have experience with farming and food.

Find Our Common Ground - This user friendly site provides answers to questions from food and farm experts. You can find info on anything from animal welfare to food safety to GMO’s.

Best Food Facts - facts from credible experts with a background, experience and credentials in food and farming.


  1. Thanks for the mention, Brenda. At Best Food Facts (dot org), we tackle all questions about food and the food system - including those related to antibiotics and animal care - by reaching out directly to University-based experts who can share factual, non-biased information. If you, or your readers, have any questions for the experts, please visit the site! We're happy to help.

    1. Thank you Roxi. Best Food Facts is a great resource!


Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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