My View From The Country

Why I Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Chick-fil-A

The fast-food chicken chain announced it will serve only antibiotic-free chicken within five years.

Being a cattleman, I have an inherent dislike for chicken. Yes, I like fried chicken, and I thoroughly enjoy wings, but disliking chicken in general has always been kind of a principled stand for me. It’s like being a Duke basketball fan; you automatically don’t like North Carolina, and vice versa.

However, I have a teenage daughter who persuaded me to go to a Chick-fil-A restaurant. The service was impeccable; the kids waiting on us had great manners. Meanwhile, the sauce you dipped your chicken in was so good that it made tasteless chicken even tasty to me. Throw in the fact that Chick-fil-A strives to operate with Christian principles – things like not opening on Sunday – and I find it hard not to be kind of a fan.

Of course, the ads featuring Holstein cows that exhort folks to “Eat mor chikin” are pretty darn humorous, even for a cattleman who is a little concerned about the message. However, with all the great things Chick-fil-A does in the community, if you are a cattleman, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s still a chicken outfit.

This week, the chain added to my consternation with its public pledge to go antibiotic-free within five years – no antibiotics ever administered from the hatchery to the processing plant. The next five years, Chick-fil-A says, will allow them to work with suppliers to build a supply chain that will allow them to be 100% antibiotic-free.

 

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Part of me rationalizes this announcement as Chick-fil-A responding to consumer demand, and part of me says they are succumbing to a radical minority. I think virtually everyone understands that, with the growing public concern regarding the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, the livestock industry must be more judicious and careful in how its uses antibiotics. However, using antibiotics properly is not only advantageous to the animal, it’s advantageous to consumers as well. 

Chick-fil-A’s customer is the consumer, and it’s hard to argue with anyone who is acting to provide what their customers want. Heck, I’d find a way to make my bulls pink if that’s what would make my customers more money. However, it does raise the question about whether a business has a responsibility to the industry it’s a part of to educate consumers about perceptions that damage that industry; or does it make more sense to follow the mantra of the customer always being right?

The antibiotic issue is important because everyone wants to be able to treat a sick animal effectively, but the antibiotic issue is a harbinger of sorts. How the antibiotic issue plays out will likely have a big effect on the debate over the use of growth promotants, and on the use of technology in general.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 5

on Feb 14, 2014

I'm disturbed by this as well. Even though I only raise chickens each spring to replace aging laying hens, I know that baby chicks need antibiotics in the water if they are to survive. Why accept heavy losses when tonic in the water can raise 100% of the chicks. Once they are older they no longer receive any medications but early on it is critical. Further if I did have an outbreak of some disorder that would respond to treatment I would use it. We have only to look at the UK to see how the city populations have subjugated the countryside. The cities have numbers and the rural areas do not, simple as that. The youth in communities see things in black and white. They want to go with the in crowd. By the time they mature enough to know they were wrong it's too late. Capture the youth or you'll never catch up to the animal terrorist agenda

DAVID BUSHARD/BUSHARD FARMS (not verified)
on Feb 14, 2014

I AGREE WITH YOU....NOT WITH CHICK-fil-A THEY ARE WRONG... AND MAYBE WITH PROPER INPUT FROM GOOD COMMON SENSE CHRISTIANS & FARM ORIENTED PEOPLE THEY MAY SEE THE LIGHT....LETS HOPE AND PRAY FOR THAT.....

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Feb 14, 2014

Amen to Maggie b.
It will be much more difficult for chicken producers to do than it was for us at New Hope Farm and producing CharLean. We were small scale and went from calving to dinner plate without comingling from any other herds and could leave off antibiotics without retarding growth or production. We avoided the feedlot by leaving calves always on pasture and bringing the feed to them.

PUREHARVESTS FOODS (not verified)
on Feb 15, 2014

Like you I like beef, and find it a bit opportunistic to claim a great movement when its already a recommendation to lower the use and I am sure FSIS is establishing the Adjusted rule around the claim now. I would add that pre and probiotic developments may be the answer to reducing the need for antibiotic use in the future . New technology is here now to improve the complete cycle and growth regiments. Now we really need to focus on building more numbers of cattle and innovation in product form to keep that taste choice preference with consumers.

TCHops (not verified)
on May 27, 2014

amen to maggie b

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.

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Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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