EZ Chicken and Affluent Narcissism?

Yes, organic food is a growing trend.

I say trend because lately en vogue ensembles seem to include a Coach bag and Manolo Blahniks paired with an organic, almond “milk” latte.

Choosing organic and/or avoiding animal protein is almost like a status symbol. The media glamorizes those who can afford to make so-called healthy, environmental choices.

But are they really better choices?

Now, I am not against organic food.

I think it works better with some crops and systems than others, and it has pros and cons just like all methods of food production and farming. I’m also totally in favor of sound, environmentally-friendly practices. My family and I work AND live on our land so of course we want to keep it healthy.

I know I’ve said that all before, but I recently came across a few pieces of writing that compelled me, once again, to tackle food labeling issues on my blog.

The first was a blog post by Dairy Carrie
on the new marketing campaign of Panera Bread.

Perhaps you’ve seen this campaign? If not, here’s some examples from Panera Bread.



Carrie outlines the issues with this campaign quite well, so I hope you take time to read her post.

Panera clearly labels their chicken natural and antibiotic-free (though not necessarily organic) and implies any farmer who uses antibiotics is lazy, uncaring, and looking for the easy way.

Just briefly, on my own behalf…

Really, Panera? You’re calling us farmers lazy?

Call me what you will, but I find it absurd that anyone can think it’s okay for humans to get treated with antibiotics, but animals shouldn’t be afforded that same care.

I know the right antibiotic can be life-saving for a sick calf, and I’m not okay with giving up that treatment option.

As for the other end of lazy, I challenge and welcome anyone to come spend a day working alongside us and then say how EZ livestock farming is.

It’s rewarding work, but easy wouldn’t be the first word that comes to my mind to describe it. We don’t enjoy giving antibiotics, but they do not diminish the quality of our milk or meat as long as we use them responsibly and abide by all withdrawal times.

Panera, I think you struck out on this one, big time.

The second article I wanted to share is from Forbes (business nerd, I know) Is Organic Agriculture Affluent Narcissism?

Now, don’t get defensive if you buy organic. We are all entitled to our food choices, and I know it’s a personal and complex issue.

First, the main things I want to say are these:

– You shouldn’t feel bad about buying what fits in your budget.

– You shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t choose organic food for your kids.

-There is no reason to scrutinize and stress over every decision you make in the grocery store.

Now, to the essence of the article, because I know in the midst of your busy day you won’t all have time to read it. First, no matter how you look at it or who does the research, there is no evidence that organic products contain more nutrients or are at less risk for contamination than their traditionally produced counterparts.

Next, pesticides are a big concern and a reason many people buy organic fruits and veggies. But, have you thought about what your organic produce is treated with?

Certainly you don’t want worm holes or bugs in your apples, do you?

No one does, and so there are multiple organic-approved pesticides. Generally these are naturally occurring.

Rotenone is one of these, naturally derived from several plants including jicama. It is also toxic to fish and has been linked to Parkinson’s disease in peer reviewed research.

Heavy doses of copper and other natural elements can also be used as a pesticide, which stick around in soil with adverse effects for a loooong time.

Nicotine Sulfate, derived from tobacco, is another natural pesticide mentioned frequently, but I found multiple differing sources on whether it is approved for organic use. (I haven’t had time to sort through the full USDA list, so if someone knows please comment.)

While researching this pesticide question even further I came upon this post from NPR.org that nicely discusses the issue. Organic Pesticides: Not an Oxymoron

Along with all this pesticide talk, there is good news! The Forbes article also says a study from UC – Berkley found that 99.9% (by weight) of pesticides in the human diet come from chemicals naturally produced by plants to defend themselves. This means that a very tiny portion come from added pesticide, whether organic or non-organic.

Please know that the last thing I want to do in this post is make you worry more about your food. Ultimately we need ways to control insects, disease, and weeds in food production, and farmers of all kinds are just going about it the best way they can.

Wash your produce, and then enjoy it.

I still believe that fresh foods, like fruits, veggies and whole grains, along with dairy, meats, and the occasional sweets make up a great diet. We are lucky to have a safe and abundant food supply here, for which I give thanks.

If you’ve got questions (or angry words) for me, just leave a comment below. I may not have the answer, but I will do my best to find out.

Happy eating, readers.

About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
This entry was posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cooking and Foods and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to EZ Chicken and Affluent Narcissism?

  1. Bree says:

    I just read that Forbes article this morning. I am often torn between being able to afford organic for the kids or not, so it did help me calm down a bit 🙂 And to that point, they have decided they don’t like vegetable now anyway, so it’s irrelevant.

    I hadn’t seen the Panera campaign but it’s quite offensive even to me. I totally agree with Carrie – if they are going to do antibiotic free chicken, why is that enough? What about ALL their other products? I guess for me, if I am making the choice to eat fast food or fast casual, I’ve already decided that that kind of food is okay for that meal, meaning a departure from cooking at home or eating maybe healthier? If that makes sense. Just by them having antibiotic free isn’t going to make me go there more or choose that sandwich over another if I was there.

    Another great post!

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks your insightful comments Bree, and thanks for taking time to read! I have a feeling you feed your kids very well; good luck with the “vegetable dislike” phase.

  2. Heidi Nicole says:

    The fun part of all this antibiotic free chicken gibberish is the fact that 95% of the people behind the counter at Panera will either roll their eyes and say “yea, I’m still not eating it” or “its what the package says”. From an employee point of view the “antibiotic-free” label is just a marketing campaign and is not something the company really stands behind. Carrie makes great points about the beef, ham and bacon — what about them?! And what about the eggs in the breakfast sandwiches? Are they antibiotic free too? I have no proof but I doubt it. Thats what really gets me about corporations – they jump on these bandwagons of what is popular at the moment with just one tiny aspect of their business but don’t truly follow through beyond the marketing.

    And I’m saying all this as a past employee and manager at Panera, not a scorned customer! It was not a bad place to work but it was very clear that some things were done purely for image. Which I completely get, to an extend…and if it carried through to all aspects of the company!

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for your candid comments Heidi. I knew you worked in the food/restaurant world when you moved to Colorado, but for some reason I didn’t realize it was at Panera.

      I know all consumer companies work hard to promote a certain image and culture, but hopefully they can re-focus things. Either way, I know it’s not the fault of the employees in the individual restaurants. I do have to wonder who the marketing gurus behind this campaign are… :/-

  3. Pingback: Panera Bread (Or How to Pluck an EZ Chicken). | My Other More Exciting Self

  4. Tara says:

    Companies jump on bandwagons because they know the consumer is the WORST at bandwagon jumping, and they use that to make money. Duh. Not saying that makes it okay, but shouldn’t the consumer be responsible for educating themselves? Shouldn’t we know better than to trust the word of a company that is just trying to make money?

    • Lisa says:

      I agree with you that people should educate themselves, but we’re all bombarded with so much information, news, ads, etc everyday that it’s impossible to be knowledgable on everything. There’s also a ton of mis-information surrounding food production, so you’ve got to be careful what you take as fact. Thanks for your comment Tara; I’m glad you believe in being an informed consumer. 🙂

  5. Pingback: After complaints from farmers, Panera walks back Twitter campaign « Celebrity Blok

  6. dairycarrie says:

    Thanks for your support Lisa!

  7. Pingback: Marketing Case Study: 3 Campaigns from the "Big Guys" & What You Can Learn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s