“Hard work pays off eventually, but lazy pays off now.” Who would have thought? According to Panera Bread, that’s the approach farmers take to their business. In this case, it’s poultry producers, but the implication is that all farmers would rather take the easy way out than make the tough decisions.
The “lazy” refers to producers who use antibiotics to treat their animals when they’re sick. The “hard work” refers to producers who don’t use antibiotics when their animals are sick. So, I guess that means Panera is feeding its customers chicken from sick birds.
Turns out, Panera has had to rethink its campaign, thanks to producers standing up to the company and to ag bloggers who have challenged the company. Specifically, “Dairy Carrie” has led the charge.
“’All natural’ and ‘Antibiotic free’ chicken: Well Ok…. What exactly does that mean?” writes Dairy Carrie. “I mean all chicken must meet the standards that the USDA has in place for antibiotic withholding, regardless of production practices. At first when I saw this I just started to shake my head. Another company using a label that implies that other choices are bad or dangerous is nothing new or earth shattering. I would have let it go, I mean labels like yours are a dime a dozen these days. But when I posted on my Facebook page about it, someone informed me of your new marketing campaign.”
Carrie teamed up with the Animal Agriculture Alliance to send a follow-up letter to Panera Bread Company, solidifying her position about their anti-antibiotics campaign. The letter will include specific grievances with the advertisements and will attempt to set up a meeting where she and other industry representatives can begin a conversation with the powers that be at Panera to discuss their current–and future–ad campaigns.
“While we appreciate the fact that they’ve removed portions of the EZChicken campaign, I think we can all agree there’s still lots of room for improvement,” she writes in her blog. “We really want this letter to make a big impact, so I would like to invite you all to join me in support by signing your name to the letter. We would love to get as many of your signatures on it as possible. Let’s continue to speak up loudly and proudly to correct misinformation and defend ag! Thank you all for your support. Carrie #PluckEZChicken.”
The folks at Panera Bread are taking action in response to the agricultural concerns. The EZ chicken character is no longer in any of Panera’s digital and social media and there are no plans to bring the EZ chicken back, according to Linn Parrish, vice president of public relations for Panera. The pill-shaped chicken is still there and Parrish admits the intent of the EZ chicken character was to show that Panera has taken the “hard road in terms of sourcing protein made without antibiotics.”
According to Carrie, several years ago many of the major chicken producers came together and pledged to not use non-therapeutic or prophylactic antibiotics. She writes, “While Panera has built an offensive marketing campaign touting their chicken as something special, many other restaurants have been using the same chicken, with lower prices and no fanfare.
“A quick list of chain restaurants that haven’t offended farmers and ranchers, although they also use poultry that hasn’t been given antibiotics…Subway, Wendy’s, TGIFridays, Noodles & Company, Atlanta Bread Company, Einstein Bros Bagels and even McDonald’s and Culver’s, who have both recently featured ad campaigns that support farmers.”
Research has shown that scare tactics don’t work with consumers, and it’s gratifying when companies that try to use them are put in their place.