I have to give Hardees credit; they have pulled off some pretty good promotions in the last few years. It seems like they are willing to do anything to gain more market share in the world of fast food. Just a couple of years ago it was a racy ad campaign featuring pseudo celebrity Paris Hilton washing her car. That caused more internet and media buzz than if they had served good food.
Lately they have featured hamburgers and chicken sandwiches like we have never seen before. Gooey, cheesy behemoth creations that seem to be a heart attack between buns. The grilled cheese burger and the pork chop breakfast biscuit come to mind. They would seem to be the last place that would appeal to socially consciences hipster foodies and soccer moms. But it seems they are taking a swing at that market share too.
Imagine my surprise when I was watching the ten o’clock news, waiting for the weather to come on and a Hardees ad appears. Instead of the artery clogging, towering monster with five slices of cheese, brisket, ham, bacon all slathered with ranch dressing burger that we have become accustomed to them touting it was a much different beast.
They proclaimed their new burger to be grass-fed, free of added hormones (I did note that they are the first ones to say free of added hormones instead of the more erroneous hormone-free), anti-biotic free and no steroids (that claim seems a bit redundant when also making the hormone claim, but most consumers don’t know the difference so they might as well get all the bang out of their buck). They called this brand-new sandwich the “Natural Burger”. As soon as I had watched the ad, I knew I had seen it all.
First of all, Hardees is pandering to the health conscience consumer? Really, what is next, the five pound chef’s salad with onion rings, a pound of bacon and fried green tomatoes? No one goes to Hardees to eat because they are worried about how healthy their food is. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hardees and eat there occasionally, but if I was truly worried about what I ate, Hardees is the last place I would eat.
Secondly and more importantly, talk about catering to those who cave into unfounded claims of health benefits and food fears. Maybe it makes good business sense for Hardees and they are tapping into a new market. To me it sounds an alarm that some of the hot, trendy (scary) food issues that affect the agriculture community are becoming more mainstream.
I am not going to get into the grass-fed versus grain-fed thing that is a choice each consumer can make depending on taste preference. As a producer, if you can make grass-fed beef work, then more power to you. I still do not think we can realistically produce enough beef without feeding grain or produce a product that most of the consuming public prefers. What worries me more is the touting of free of added hormones, antibiotics and (gasp) steroids.
A little bit later I saw a promo for Dr. Oz and he was going to explore the horrors of antibiotics in your meat and how to avoid them. I wonder if he was going to promote going to Hardees. Fear mongering about your food at its best (or worst). The idea that farmers and ranchers are pumping their animals full of hormones, antibiotics and steroids makes for good shock TV and burger ad campaigns and it really could affect how we do our business.
We have taken the off ramp onto the limiting or eliminating the use of antibiotics in animals and we are barreling down that road at an ever increasing speed. I cannot imagine, nor do I want to live in a world where I cannot use antibiotics on my cattle or sheep. It would be cruel and cause many unnecessary deaths. Proper use of antibiotics has never caused any resistance to antibiotics in humans, none and there are plenty of studies out there to prove it. Sadly, the bad science of social media and activists are gaining ground with unfounded claims and bad science.
That is why it is more important than ever for those of us who farm and ranch for a living to promote how and why we use antibiotics. We need to tell the consuming public about why we use them, the precautions we take and the lengths we go to insure that the meat on their table is safe to eat. When we do this maybe things will return to normal and Hardees will go back to promoting gut busting, greasy burgers with scantily clad b-list celebrities, just like the good ol’ days.