When “sustainable” becomes unsustainable… Feedback Friday

This morning I saw the news article that Chipotle had announced they would now be sourcing all of their beef from Australia, instead of from Texas (or any other state that produces beef). I was confused and still am. So I thought I would throw it out for a Feedback Friday post. Now before you think this is a personal attack on Chipotle, it is not. This is an attack on any USA based company that isn’t even giving the USA a chance to produce the product. I love that consumers (myself included) have choices on where they eat and they type of food they eat. We get choices on what to watch on tv, what to wear, who to spend time with, and of course with our food – a huge perk of living in America. From what I understand, Chipotle sources its product from sustainable, humanely raised, no antibiotics, no additional hormones sources – correct? Well, we produce beef just like that in the United States of America. And with so many young persons/women/minorities wanting to become involved in agriculture, a specialty or niche product like what Chipotle wants could be perfect for their start in ag. So what I need help with understanding, and where I would like your thoughts: – Is shipping beef 8000 miles still sustainable? At what point does “sustainable” become unsustainable? – When a product is coming from another country how confident are we that the product was raised and grown to the same high standards we have in the US? What about federal inspections ensuring the safety? – Are there concerns over the potential food safety issues that may arise from a journey like that? The west coast is having shipping port issues at this time – will that impact these beef imports? – The price? I am sure a premium price is already being paid for this beef, will that price skyrocket with the addition of these shipping costs? What is the breaking point on the cost of the beef items for consumers? – Why does Chipotle not think American farmers/ranchers can provide the beef they need? Cows under tree Please help me try to understand… ——————- Dr. Lindsay can also be found on: – Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food) – Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay) – Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay) – Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

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Give American beef the chance…

Recently, Chipotle announced they were going to begin sourcing beef from Australia because they claimed there was not enough beef in the U.S. to meet their demands. I have nothing against Australia, I think it is a great country with great people…BUT Chipotle is not even giving the American beef farmer/rancher a chance to meet their demands.

cowsongrass
Cows and their calves grazing grass.

If Chipotle is having such success and knew meeting beef demand might be challenging, why didn’t/don’t they have people who find beef farmers/ranchers or put out the call they are looking for beef farmers/ranchers willing and able to raise beef that aligns with their mission (grass-fedno antibiotics and synthetic hormone free), and contract enough beef to meet their demand? As a beef farmer/rancher, you can get in a real bind if you grow beef for a specialized market, and then find out that market will not support you. But if you know the market will support you, and you can support it, then it can be a real win-win.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture report showed that the number of women, Hispanic/Spanish/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Black/African American agricultural (specifically beef) operators is actually increasing! There are people in America that can and would raise beef that aligned with Chipotle’s mission and goals, which would keep Chipotle (an American company) supporting an American product (beef) through American people! But Chipotle has decided to start sourcing beef from Australia. While Australian beef may fit Chipotle’s model, does the increase in price for beef at a Chipotle restaurant fit into your model? Are you willing to pay more for your meal at Chipolte to cover the costs of the beef, shipping, transport, inspections, and customs costs for beef that has traveled over 8,000 miles?

It doesn’t seem Chipotle is the only one sourcing beef from outside of the U.S. to meet demand. McDonald’s announced it would source “verified sustainable beef” by 2016. Last I heard McDonald’s was unsure where to begin on the issue, and they hadn’t yet defined sustainable, and now they are in serious discussions with Canada about supplying their eateries with Canadian beef? It seems Canada has  several long-running cattle programs in place which make it attractive to McDonald’s.

MeatingPlace reported (June 23, 2014) that beef imports from Australia and Candad went up 26% and 11% respectively, contributing to an increase of beef imports into the US up a total of 6%!

I don’t know about you, but when American companies claim there is not enough beef to support local, I have a hard time supporting them, especially when I know they are lying. I am a fan of supporting local, but importing beef from Australia and Canada is not local in my eyes.  American farmers and ranchers have what it takes to produce enough product for both Chipotle and McDonald’s!

This is a topic that is vitally important not only to me, a person with a deep love for the agricultural industry, but to you, consumers of food from which these companies will make you pay higher prices for their products that CAN and should be be grown and sourced in the USA! If you leave with nothing else, know that American beef farmers/ranchers have the ability and capability to meet the demands of these companies, it is not necessary for them to source beef from other countries!

 

cows eating
Nutritious and Delicious!