Famine (Chipotle Part 1): Chipotle proved you CAN bite the hand that feeds you. The high-calorie Mex-Tex chain announced that it was removing all foods containing genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), doubling down on a strategy of misinformation as marketing. The American Soybean Assocation (ASA) may have said it best: “Chipotle’s announcement … smacks of a willful subversion of science, all in the name of selling burritos.” A chorus of sometimes-surprising voices condemned the ploy, ranging from National Public Radio to the Washington Post, the Center for Science in the Public Interest … and, for what it’s worth, from us too.
Feast: Research from the University of Kansas Medical Center found a link between milk consumption and the healthy levels of a natural occurring antioxidant needed to stave off dementia in older ages. The findings found that milk drinkers are less likely to develop ailments like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. It’s just another reason to stick with good ol’ fashion dairy.
Famine (Chipotle Part 2): This is what it looks like when the Emperors have no clothes: After attacking America’s family farmers as well as drawing fire for the poor treatment of its own frontline staff, Chipotle’s Co-CEOs Steve Ells and Monty Moran have cashed in more than $100 million in compensation since 2013, according to USA Today. The duo’s lucrative paydays even sparked anger among Chipotle shareholders, who have put up at least four pay proposal changes at the company’s annual meeting. “CEOs of far bigger and more complex, more profitable companies are paid less,” said Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, who oversees $150 billion in city pension plans. “They’re paid more than Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan.”
Feast: Amidst the endless protests of environmental groups claiming agricultural runoff is destroying the Great Lakes, they seem to exercise selective memory: In May, the U.S. Coast Guard reported Lake Michigan’s water was “crystal blue,” so much so that a number of century-old shipwrecks were clearly visible with the blind eye from the window of an aircraft.
Famine: America is in dire need of committed, objective journalists dedicated to covering agriculture issues. That’s why it was dumbfounding when the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism announced a spring “tour” in May that paraded across the state with a sculpture of a cow’s back end (somehow this was meant to illustrate the issue of tainted wells … go figure). We believe in Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, but we also believe in integrity. Wouldn’t the organization be more forthright if it went by the name, “Wisconsin Center for Anti-Farming Activism?”
Feast: After several years of difficult weather and challenging seasons, Midwest farmers are savoring just-right planting conditions in 2015. “This year all the corn is going to be planted by the first of May,” farmer Dale Butson told Iowa Farmer Today. For the record: That’s 20 days earlier than in 2014 when cold weather hindered farmers across the mid-section of the country.
Famine: Aramark, a provider of food, facilities management and uniforms, recently trumpeted a marketing alliance with the Humane Society of the United States. The company’s newly launched “animal welfare” manifesto is more about “feel good” marketing than actual meaningful change. By taking its marching orders from an activist group with questionable motives rather than meeting with the farms that actually supply it, the $15 billion company is playing a high stakes game of chicken. There are plenty of other uniform companies that would love to grab some of Aramark’s agriculture business. It will be interesting to see how farmers react to a company that takes their money with one hand, and slaps them with the other?
Feast: Kudos to all of the farms in the Midwest that are opening up their doors this summer to the public for Breakfast on the Farms and other similar events.