On a recent trip to Michigan for a nephew’s wedding, my daughter and son-in-law shared a private joke as they smiled at one another. When I asked what was going on, they said, “We just went by a Bob Evans restaurant.” Then they looked at me and added, “Whenever you see a Bob Evans, you want to eat there.”
Of course, they were exaggerating and I disagreed vehemently, but secretly, there was a little truth. I like the casual family atmosphere, the reasonable prices and the “home-cooked” food. Plus, I remember the many times Bob Evans personally bought the grand champion barrow at a number of Midwest state fairs.
Now, I have another reason to like Bob Evans Farms, Inc. Yesterday, a press release from the company stated, “Bob Evans Farms, Inc. is committed to the responsible care of animals that are raised to provide food products for our customers.”
It went on to talk about the expectations of consumers on food quality, food safety and the well-being of animals and the recognition that challenges exist with respect to sow housing.
Most importantly, it states, “To meet those responsibilities, decisions made by our company must be ethically grounded, scientifically verified, sustainable and economically viable. As part of that decision-making process, Bob Evans Farms recently held extensive discussions with a wide range of stakeholders – including farmers, customers, industry trade groups and animal rights advocates – to discuss housing systems for gestating sows.”
What?! Make a decision based on scientific verification? What a novel idea!
“Bob Evans Farms’ internal experts consulted regularly on sow housing with members of our Animal Well-Being Committee, which includes three independent outside experts in animal behavior and well-being. We also considered academic research and scientific literature that examined the advantages and disadvantages of individual and group housing environments for gestating sows,” says the release.
Not only does Bob Evans Farms, Inc. want scientific verification – it is also using academic research and scientific research to help it reach a reasonable decision based on facts, not rhetoric.
Finally, the kicker: “Our key learning is this – the single-most critical factor in ensuring animal well-being is not the housing system itself, but rather the animal husbandry practiced by those who care for the sows. Although there is no perfect housing system available, we will remain focused on quality animal care from trained, qualified caretakers and a safe on-farm working environment.”
It’s refreshing and gratifying to see a food company consider the facts and take in as much information as possible from a variety of sources before stating a position. Many other food companies simply listened to one noisy faction without looking at the validity of their decisions or the accompanying ramifications to farmers.
Yes, Bob Evans Farms, Inc. added that it will be consistent with the livestock care standards adopted in Ohio, which require all suppliers to source animals from housing systems that provide animals with ample opportunity for movement and comfort by 2025, but think of what new information and technology the industry will have by that time? Think of all the advancements that have been made in the last 10 years in terms of what we know about animal care, facilities, worker safety and best management practices.
As of the end of January, Bob Evans Restaurants owned and operated 565 family restaurants in 19 states, primarily in the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the United States. To my knowledge, we don’t have the restaurants in Iowa, but you can bet I’ll continue to seek them out when I’m traveling in other states, despite joking from family members. And want to publicly thank them for taking a stand on the side of reason when many other food companies are caving to activist pressure.