Message of integrity
I fully believe that lack of unity within the agricultural industry is the greatest challenge facing the future of all domestic food production. The soybean producers have proven that we can't get along, even within one sector of agriculture. The dairymen's division between large and small has led the rejection of a technology that provides dairymen of all sizes a tremendous advantage. Some beef producers fully realize that they are producing beef while others demand that they only market cattle. I fully understand that divide and conquer has long been the weapon of choice when it comes to winning battles, and I personally don't want to contribute to that arsenal. We can no longer sit back and allow anybody at any time to say whatever they feel like saying in the name of marketing their products.
For quite some time, I have been troubled with the marketing campaign of Chipotle Mexican Grill but, honestly, I have been reluctant to say anything for the reason mentioned. That is no more. On June 16, Steve Ells was on Nightline discussing his "Food With Integrity" approach and completely misleading people about modern pork production. I have decided I will not let him get away with it anymore. I have recently forwarded the following letter to the owner of the fast food chain.
Dear Mr. Ells:
As owner of Chipotle Mexican Grill, I hereby request you immediately refrain from using the phrase "Food With Integrity" until you find some yourself.
I have just watched the June 16 segment on Nightline and, as a sixth generation United States farmer who has personally provided daily care for more than one million farm animals in my lifetime, I was appalled at some of your statements.
First off, as the filming was taking place, the pigs were seen drinking their own urine. I prefer my pork to come from pigs that consume fresh clean water instead of stale urine and feces-laced puddles.
As a kid, we raised pigs out in the hills and, in those mud holes, pigs exhibited their "piggyness." Compared to today's modern confinement pork production system, where comprehensive manure management plans are in place to protect the environment, our system of 30 years ago was not good for the environment in any shape or form. Trees still do not grow in the area where our pigs once roamed.
You also referenced that the free-range chicken served in your restaurants comes from chickens only fed vegetarian diets. I still today have free-ranging hens on my farm and they eat a vast number of insects and any dead animal carcass that might accidentally show up. So I am telling you there is zero integrity in a man who states our chickens only eat vegetarian diets, if they come from free-range conditions.
Mr. Ells, I have been at every level in animal agriculture and I can tell you that modern agriculture, through confinement housing, has taken our nation's food system to the most elite in the world. Today's farmers produce the safest, most wholesome supply of food with fewer resources impacted than at any time in recorded history.
While we do indeed live in a country where you have the choice to reject the science and technology that has been the success story of American agriculture, I assure you I will not stand back and allow you to mislead the citizens of our country about the accomplishments of the livestock industry in the past 50 years of food production.
I do request that you issue a public apology for the incorrect information you have put forth to the American consumer.
Respectfully, Trent Loos
I am pleased to report that I have received a response from Chipotle already but disappointed to inform you that they deny misleading American consumers. I plan to fully hold them accountable for the information they present and let the American public know that Chipotle Mexican Grill is not a place where they should be eating. Modern agriculture and confined animal agriculture is sustainable agriculture and, if anyone attempts to tell you otherwise, they are probably trying to sell you on their product and perhaps you need to double-check their integrity.
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or e-mail Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.