Misleading Antibiotic Messages and Advocating for Agriculture

The August issue of National Hog Farmer is devoted to the topic of analyzing antibiotic use (and will be coming to your mailbox or email Inbox on Aug. 15).  As we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our stories this week, the topic of antibiotics in agriculture has been swirling in social media circles once again.  Perhaps you have been following the Twitter and Facebook conversations involving a recent Panera Bread advertising campaign professing (via a chicken character shaped like a medication capsule and a graphic depicting a barn made out of pills) that farmers who use antibiotics are lazy. The take-home message is that antibiotic-free chicken is the way to go—along with a false implication that antibiotics are commonly found in meat.

In a testament to the importance of agricultural advocacy, Carrie Chestnut Mess, a dairy producer who blogs as Dairy Carrie, created a blog post entitled, “Dear Panera Bread Company.” Minnesota pork industry blogger and agricultural advocate Wanda Patsche followed suit in her own blog. The posts started a social media backlash against the misleading advertising campaign and ultimately, got the attention of Panera management.

Patsche addressed the issue in her Minnesota Farm Living blog with a post entitled, “Standing Up to Panera Bread—Farmers are Not Lazy.” She also carried the message to Panera via Twitter and Facebook (Twitter handle @MinnFarmer ) from a pork producer’s perspective and garnered a direct apology and response from Panera.

Patsche writes in her blog, “So why am I boycotting Panera Bread?  It is because of their latest marketing campaign, which refers to farmers as lazy because they use antibiotics to treat their sick animals. Really? Lazy because we treat sick animals? This is just wrong, and evidence Panera Bread is not being straightforward and truthful in their marketing efforts. They are also telling consumers that they buy only antibiotic-free meat. Let me be perfectly clear: There are no antibiotics in any meat sold! Panera Bread is taking advantage of consumers’ lack of knowledge on antibiotic use in animals and trying to place themselves above other restaurants by claiming they serve antibiotic-free meat. But this marketing campaign is resulting in some very upset farmers.”

Patsche goes on to say, “As a farmer, any antibiotics that we may give our animals are subject to a withdrawal rate. Our meat packer, Hormel, will NOT buy our animals if there is ANY antibiotic residue. On our farm, we follow very strict drug guidelines and are under the supervision of a veterinarian.”

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Well said, Wanda!  If you have a chance, I encourage you to visit her blog to read the rest of her post.  While you are at it, you should check out her Facebook page, too. Both Patsche and Mess are examples of producers who have chosen to defend their industries by making their voices heard. They calmly present the facts, and explain their side of the story. Though it is not completely clear yet whether or not Panera will truly change their marketing campaign, the company has taken the time to respond to both Patsche and Mess with apologies. Ultimately, the time they are taking to speak up for the livestock industry benefits all producers.

Have you considered spending time advocating for agriculture? What approach do you use? If you are interested in learning more about how pork producers can get involved, contact the National Pork Board at (800)-456-7675 or email info@pork.org.   If you are looking for inspiration, read a recent National Hog Farmer story about how pork producer Chris Chinn speaks out on behalf of pork producers at this link.

If you have an “agvocay” story or tips to share, please leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below, or email lora.berg@penton.com.  Thank you for helping share the “real” story about responsible pork production!

You might also like:

Minnesota Farm Living Blog

Hogs Don’t Have Health Insurance: The Myth of Antibiotic Use

Agricultural Advocacy Movement Grows

Prudent Use of Antibiotics

2010 Master of the Pork Industry – Chris Chinn

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