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In principles vs. business and need, which wins out?
 
From butter cows to natural beef, there is never a dull moment in the world of agriculture.

They tried to make a point and disrupt an event, but instead they made themselves look silly and increased traffic. The animal rights vandals that dumped red paint on the famous butter cow at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines attempted to demonstrate with the objective to make the fair stop.

Seriously? They thought vandalism would do it? A bomb going off would surely raise a fuss. An entire stage collapsing during a concert, with loss of human life – now that would wreak havoc on a state fair security team. But red paint on a butter sculpture for the sake of setting animals free? Hardly.

I think the more impressive act of terror was the criminal behavior of people who want everyone to eat vegetables. Hiding in the building after hours, breaking and entering into the cold case where the sculpture stood; is this the sign of intelligent people with a worthy cause? I think “thugs” would more accurately describe these “activists.”

Then we have Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., forced to change its standards to allow beef from cattle that were sick and had been treated with antibiotics into its restaurants, because of a supply shortage of its naturally raised beef.

In the past, antibiotics were the antichrist at Chipotle. It would never use beef from cattle that had been given antibiotics in treatment of disease or to prevent disease or promote weight gain. This was the hook from which they hung their entire marketing mantra – this above-the-fray standard was front and center on the wall, in the menu … everywhere you looked, it was all about being natural and antibiotics-free.

But since the all-natural supply has not kept up with demand, this has all changed – with one exception. The chain still won’t use beef from cattle that were given antibiotics in their feeding program.
If I had a choice whether to eat beef from a steer that had pneumonia or had a trouble-free health record because of the producer’s preventive nutritional program, I think I’d choose the healthy steer with the preventative nutritional program. But it sounds like Chipotle will take the sick steers instead.

The question that remains is, will they plaster this change all over the menu? “Our beef is hand-selected from all naturally fed beef and those steers that were not given any preventative care, but were naturally thin and sick with snotty noses and diarrhea. But they were given antibiotics for treatment and those antibiotics are okay.”
I can see it now: The Millennial generation standing there scratching their heads in confusion. So, there are good antibiotics and bad antibiotics? And will I be eating beef from a natural steer or a sick steer? And why did they change their policy?

Frustrated by all the confusion, they’ll realize all they really want is something to eat, so they’ll head across the road where beef is beef and they can have it their way at Burger King. Is it any wonder we have consumer confusion?

Let’s just simplify it: If it tastes good, eat it. But remember what your mother said: “Everything in moderation.”

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.
8/22/2013