Monday, February 2, 2015

Chipotle Doesn't Know Pigs (Like A Farmer)

This past week I was happy to be home on my own farm, feeding my animals and living the life of a farmer who is proud to be producing the food we all need. I am so proud to be part of the larger Ag community and proud of the way we go about producing food. Just as technology and science have advanced our quality of life, agriculture has seen the same advancements. That is why it is so disturbing to me to see others demanding that we push those advancements back.
Chipotle restaurants came out this past week and said that they would no longer have pork carnitas on the menu. Their reason? According to Chipotle, they could not find enough pork produced in the manner they require. Chipotle says they are focused on doing the right thing ethically and sustainably. In the case of their pork they want the pigs to have access to the outdoors and not be fed antibiotics.
Don’t get me wrong, Chipotle is a business and they are free to operate in any manner they see fit. If they want to source their pork in that manner with those requirements, fine, it is a free country. Obviously I do not agree with them or their ideas about how pigs should be raised, but if that is how they want to run their business then so be it. I have vowed not to patronize Chipotle because of how they characterize most of us in the ag community, but if you enjoy their food or agree with their stance on agriculture then that is OK too. We live in a free country and it is your prerogative.
However, I take great offense when anyone bashes my fellow farmers and criticizes how they run their business. I have many friends who earn their living raising pigs; most of them are involved in family operations that have been in place for generations. Again, you know my idea of sustainable and if your family has been raising pigs for generations, then you are sustainable.
What really gets my goat (or pig in this case) is the notion that modern pork producers do not have the best interest of their animals, or those who eat their pork, in mind. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have been in modern swine facilities and I have found the pigs to be comfortable and very healthy. The comfort factor is magnified even more in times of extreme temperatures. Pigs raised inside spend their lives in a constant, regulated environment with plenty of fresh air and room to move.
I know Chipotle would have the public believe otherwise, but those of us who raise livestock for a living know better. We know that if you keep the environment around your animals constant they are more content. Need an example? When we achieve financial success as humans what is one thing most people do? They move to a place with a more temperate environment. Whether that is Arizona in the winter or Colorado in the summer, we escape the extremes. Well, that is what my fellow hog farmers are doing, they are creating a more temperate environment for their pigs. That, in turn, makes their pigs more comfortable.
Am I saying that animals raised outside are treated unethically? Absolutely not, animals have been raised outdoors since the start of time and can be made comfortable in that environment also. Farmers and ranchers utilize their experience and knowledge to treat their animals right, no matter what method they choose.
As for the point that Chipotle wants their pork raised without antibiotics. Let me just say that I would not hesitate to feed my family pork raised by one of my friends in a modern facility. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that all of the withdrawal times have been met and the meat is absolutely safe to eat. There is good science behind the feeding of antibiotics and even better behind the withdrawal dates that insure food safety.
The bottom line is that I understand that we are a consumer driven business and we must produce what our customers want. However, it pains me greatly when others capitalize on bad science and hysteria to line their own pockets. Whether food producer, food supplier or consumer; we are all in this together and it is our responsibility to make sure that we educate ourselves and those around us so that we can all make informed decisions based on the truth and not hype. Rest assured that there is plenty of ethically raised, sustainable pork, despite what Chipotle says.

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