Chipotle hurts family farms

by Kjersti Maday

madaykj@mnstate.edu

To the joy of many, Chipotle officially opened a restaurant in Fargo on Feb. 9. Who doesn’t love Mexican food? Fargo has been home to many of the nation’s great chain restaurants: McDonalds, Arby’s and another recent addition, Sonic.

While the entire fast food business is known to be unhealthy, it has a few companies that try to brand themselves as a healthy option. On its face this is a complete oxymoron, but Chipotle is one that claims to have “food with integrity.”

Their website states they use food that was raised with care to provide “great taste, great nutrition and great value.” The Chipotle website also claims to have respect for farmers.

But following recent news, I’m willing to bet Chipotle has very little respect for them. 

In January Chipotle announced nearly one-third of its restaurants would not be serving pork. The decision came after a routine audit of one of the chain’s pork suppliers. This issue, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold explains, is related to the housing of pigs. Chipotle requires the animals they purchase to have access to the outdoors instead of tight pens. As part of Chipotle’s program, all their meat products must be raised without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet.

Chipotle has admitted they can’t purchase products from the farmer down the road, and they sometimes have to work with large farms and food distributors. But do they realize just how few and far between family farms are?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, about 3,000 acres of productive farmland is lost to development every day. While small farms still dominate in numbers, they own the least amount of land. Economic pressures are leading to a more machine-driven farm. This has given many the negative impression that the “factory farm” is common.

I argue that even those smaller family farms are being forced out of necessity and competition, to use practices that Chipotle would turn their nose up to.

My father has farmed hogs for almost 20 years. He knows how the animals behave; he knows how to raise and care for them. Do the hogs he raises have access to the outdoors? No. In a climate where the majority of the year is easily classified as “winter,” it’s inefficient to create buildings with features that would rarely be used.

Chipotle also bans the use of antibiotics, but how can they expect a farmer to make a living when half of their livestock dies of disease? Without the use of antibiotics, even animals in less confined areas are more prone to illness and have difficulty raising weight.

Farmers are invested in their animals; it’s a no-brainer to keep your animals healthy by giving them antibiotics.

My father owns a family-run business, but he doesn’t work with Chipotle because he clearly doesn’t meet their standard of suitable living quarters for animals.

However, if Chipotle claims to want to keep small family farms in business, shouldn’t they realize how unrealistic it is for many of them to raise hogs the way it deems acceptable?

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