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Food Choices, Food Safety, Food Errors

February 24, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWho is at risk when consumers get sick from food? Many blame the farmer, who may not have touched it since it was breathing on the farm. Some say the processor, others say the consumer.

The reality is all three share the burden of food safety and eliminating as much errors as possible, but sometimes that threatens food choices. An article I saw today talks of Chick-fil-A’s quest to have antibiotic free chicken in their restaurants.

Chipotle has gotten a lot of mileage out of its videos and its new made-for-the-Web series depicting the supposed horrors of what it calls industrial agriculture. The message of this edgy campaign equates things like climate-controlled buildings, use of feed additives, and large scale operations with mechanization and dehumanization of workers. This campaign doesn’t resonate with me, but I can see how it might appeal to a certain demographic. You have to suspend disbelief in order to accept that the only suppliers for a 1,500 restaurant chain are “small farms” with pasture-raised animals. I wonder at what point a restaurant chain becomes “big” and when it does, is it then “bad”?

This is what I’ve been trying to say for some time – small places like us are not going to supply restaurants that need volume. Especially large restaurants. We HAVE antibiotic free chicken, yes, but volume creates a demand for the very thing those making such food choices don’t like.

With 1,800 restaurants, Chick-fil-A adds demand already questioned with Chipotle’s 1,500 restaurants.That’s not including chicken sourced for other restaurants or grocery stores. Don’t be fooled into thinking that people like us are raising 200-300 chickens and taking them to the restaurant. Some important links in the chain are missing there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany want to make it into a large farm/small farm comparison, and there really is none. Serving even a small portion of 3,300 restaurants just  isn’t going to be done by small farms, at least not the kind of small farms people are picturing and marketing folks are letting them picture.

We haven’t used antibiotics in our birds. True, there have been other things occasionally used, and we’re honest about that, but antibiotics just aren’t something that’s been needed.

Many want food choices the way they want food choices…until someone gets sick. Or dies. Then they want revenge,  and there’s attorneys eager to provide it. Food isn’t sterile folks. It never has been. Modern processing, pasteurization and other food safety solutions have made it much safer, arguably, but food is not sterile.

Our friends at Dickinson Cattle Company recently had a large amount of beef stolen. That which was recovered was compromised, and although it was probably safe, compromised ground beef just isn’t something worth taking a risk on. Smart choice, but one that hurts the pocketbook and the heart to see so much wasted food.

Many point to recalls as proof of the need for more regulation. Most recalls are label issues, and often there are no illnesses reported. This indicates the food safety system works. Food issues are too important to let go. Food choices are important but so is food responsibility.

Again – food isn’t sterile. Even if it makes it to your kitchen in good shape, mishandling can mean contamination. If there was an issue along the way, safe handling can minimize risk. Learn safe food handling tips. It matters!

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  1. Label EVERYTHING! Really? | Food, Farm, Life Choices

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