Should Farmers Turn Their Backs on Companies That Politicize Food?

In Activism, General by Mark

(Guest Blogger – Natalie) 

I like a good burrito. And Chipotle Mexican Grill has figured out how to make them so good that you come back for more.  But it seems odd that Chipotle is subsidizing viewings of the one-sided documentary Food, Inc. at theaters across the country.

 From its official Web site, Food, Inc. directors claim it exposes America’s industrialized food system and its effect on our environment, health, economy and workers’ rights.

That’s nice that Chipotle is involved in subsidizing the movie showings, considering the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has written Chipotle a letter asking for them not to get tomatoes from a farm that abuses its workers.

 Here’s the second paragraph of a letter sent to Steve Ellis, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill:

Yet for us, naturally raised meat – important as it is – does not trump decently treated human beings. We are outraged by the working and living conditions we have seen in the Immokalee area of Florida, source of some 90 percent of the winter tomatoes consumed in the United States. Many of us have visited Immokalee, and see it as a stark example of the vast power discrepancies in our food system. In the winter-tomato market, a small number of very large buyers dictate terms to the seven or eight entities that control land in tomato country; those growers, in turn, squeeze the workers in brutal fashion.

 Chipotle’s main marketing scheme is the big burrito of your making coming from sustainable and animal-friendly farms. Some of which don’t use antibiotics to treat sick animals. Having said that, though, does our society value animals we slaughter for food every day or people’s rights?

And look who all signed off on that letter to Chipotle. None other than the director of the movie Food, Inc. The letter was signed June of 2009 (http://www.ciw-online.org/letter_to_Chipotle.html):

 Eric Schlosser, Author, Fast Food Nation, Co-Producer “Food, Inc” ; Robert Kenner, Director, “Food, Inc.”; * Raj Patel, Author, Stuffed and Starved;* Frances Moore Lappé, Author, Diet for a Small Planet;  Curt Ellis, Co-Producer, “King Corn”;  Will Allen, Founder & CEO, Growing Power, Inc.;  Erika Allen, Chicago Projects Manager, Growing Power, Inc.;  Winona LaDuke, Executive Director, Honor the Earth;  Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA;  Ben Burkett, President, National Family Farm Coalition;  Kenny Ausubel, CEO and Founder, Bioneers; Jim Cochran, Founder and President, Swanton Berry Farm;  John Peck, Executive Director, Family Farm Defenders…and more.

But that’s not all. The following is from Chipotle’s Web site touting its Food With Integrity motto:

 “Food With Integrity” isn’t a marketing slogan. It’s not a product line of natural and organic foods. And it’s not a corporate initiative that will ever be finished or set aside to make room for other priorities. It’s a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy. And when we say better, we mean better in every sense of the word- better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce.

 But the movie Food, Inc. falsely claims that all of our food is raised by large corporate farms that are polluting the environment. And that’s not true. We have plenty of independent farmers in the United States-tens of thousands in many corn-belt states not to mention the plentiful ranchers in other states. These family farmers raise their children where they grow corn and raise pigs, cows and chickens for your dinner plate.

 So, if Chipotle sponsors the movie Food, Inc., why does it buy meat from Harris Ranch, which operates a large scale modern feedlot in Central California? 

 World population and demands for food grown at any season have dictated what choices our farmers make. Politicians once ran successfully on the slogans such as “a chicken in every pot,” while today thanks to modern livestock rearing practices most Americans could eat chicken three times a day if they desired. And those choices have also decreased environmental impact substantially through the years with modern hybrid seeds that allow for far fewer chemicals and the use of less land to feed an ever-growing population.

Speaking of ever-growing population, food choices that people have made and a lack of exercise has led to obesity problems. Here’s the calorie count and fat count for a Chipotle burrito made with chicken, rice, salsa, sour cream, cheese and guacamole (do your own math here: http://www.chipotlefan.com/index.php?id=nutrition_calculator):

 Calories: 1115
Total fat: 51 grams
Sodium: 2070 mg

 Wow! But it’s okay because some of their beef ate grass instead of corn. That doesn’t make any sense. 

The goal of movies such as Food, Inc. is to end agriculture as we know it. If the film producers and the radical groups PETA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) get their way, family farmers would shut down because they can’t afford to farm. It will be harder for places such as Chipotle to get even free-range chicken because HSUS “standards” say flocks should not touch each other’s wings. How can you ever stop a chicken from walking over and touching another chicken.

 Farmers will tell you that chickens are more susceptible to disease by being free range; they also peck each other to death. The same with hogs–they bite each other, they kill each other’s young, and that’s why they are raised the way they are in gestation crates for a few weeks: to keep them safe.

In modern herds of cows an animal is taken OUT of rotation if they need antibiotics, just like a child in a kindergarten class may have to stay home and take antibiotics for an infection.

Any problems caused by Food Inc. and its supporters, including PETA and HSUS, could also make it harder for organic and free-range farmers to run their businesses because of those regulations. The goal of these groups? To stop the killing of animals for anything, be it food, clothing or products. What if such groups drive farming to the closest place, Mexico? They sure don’t have the powerful guidelines in place that the U.S. does.

 While Chipotle has the right to do business and market their products, so do farmers. Farmers work each and every day to provide for the well-being of our flocks and herds a practice followed over generations of farming. Animal care is a top priority because its the right thing to do and it keeps our animals safe, healthy and disease-free and ensures that we can continue our core mission to provide safe, affordable, locally-raised food for consumers.

Again, I sure love those Chipotle burritos, but stay out of the way farmers do business and quit getting political. Agriculture is the number one industry in the U.S. and if farmers, say, decide to stop growing because they’re tired of all the rhetoric, good luck. Farmers don’t have to do what they do to feed the masses, but many have been in the business through generations.

Oh, and thanks to Chipotle for subsidizing the movie (likely to get the producers off their backs for buying tomatoes from a farm that isn’t humane to workers) so we didn’t have to pay to see this propaganda that furthers marketing of such restaurant and brings them more cash from a frightened audience.