How does Agriculture respond to food issues

Chick-Fil-A (Photo credit: Link576)

If you’ve been online in the last week, I’m sure you’ve seen the storylines about Chick-Fil-A’s stance on marriage issues. Many are calling for a boycott, while others are calling for a day of support, tomorrow August 1st.

No matter where you stand, this issue doesn’t stand alone when it comes to controversy over our food supply and how groups respond to these issues. Recently, social media friend and past guest blogger on this site, Aimee Whetstine (blog, Twitter) shared her thoughts on the Chick-Fil-A topic on the BlogHer site.

The ruckus over Chick-fil-A raises the question: Who’s behaving like the hater here?

Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy’s recent comments in Baptist Press should come as no surprise. The company is privately owned. In 45 years of existence, their restaurants have never been open on Sundays. They’ve always supported a traditional, Biblical definition of marriage and family.

“We intend to stay the course,” said Cathy in the article. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Chick-fil-A uses their resources to support and care for families in ways they see fit. That includes contributing to non-profits that share their beliefs.

Speaking from experience, that also includes family activity nights at their restaurants, refreshing beverages for free, and politely carrying trays to tables for mothers like me who have their hands full. Besides, the food is delicious.

I don’t hate gay people. I don’t believe the Cathy family and their franchisees hate gay people. I don’t plan to stop eating at Chick-fil-A anytime soon. I understand if your convictions differ. You can stop eating there if you want.

You’ll be missing out on some mighty fine chicken if you do.

Read the entire post and comments here.

There’s so many discussions. How do we best get our message across?

So this got my wheels turning and turned into an interesting conversation on FacebookIs boycotting businesses for whatever cause the right way to go about influencing change?

I’ve written about my thoughts on Chipotle, McDonalds, Dominos, and other restaurants who choose to take a stance on animal issues at the begging of HSUS. (Issues of HSUS support also branch outside of food businesses.) As a member of the agriculture community I feel some obligation to direct my support else where in protest.

At the same time, the response of many within the agriculture community can be perceived by customers as negative, defensive, or even “furious” as was the case with NCBA’s response for last week’s USDA newsletter (Page 3) on Meatless Mondays. Many agriculture groups, including farmers, spoke up about the newsletter with disgust. The USDA later retracted the newsletter, saying it was published without approval. Following that incident with the USDA, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) declared a “Meat Monday” to mock Meatless Monday with a BBQ feast.

On the other hand, money is your vote in this country.

Might be a good time to consider proactive strategies and cultivating relationships.

What’s the best way to get a message across to business owners you disagree with, and to show support for those who align with your ideals?

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  1. Frankly, I am growing weary of these controversies and don’t think we’ll ever resolve them. Why do farmers have to defend themselves on so many fronts when they are feeding the world? A world that needs all the food it can get and is going to need more in the future. Why can’t the owner of a company voice his beliefs as long as he is doing no physical harm to anyone or insisting everyone believe as he does? We are a free nation. Freedom of speech and freedom of our beliefs is one of the basic tenets this country was founded on. We have a right to voice our opinions and beliefs but can’t we do it in a way that doesn’t demand everyone believes or does things the way we do or think they should be done. I’m tired of the lack of civility and understanding – and of the ignorance.

  2. Caryl, I really agree with what you have stated. I agree that we should all have choice and if your choice is to not eat at a certain place or eat certain foods that is just fine. Freedom of choice is one of the things that makes this nation great. The issue I have is when people are not allowed freedom of choice because a certain group of people with a certain goal in mind forces and pushes that agenda which then does not allow people choice. It is just not right.
    So the question is how to we maintain our freedom of choice?

  3. I said this at the Agvocacy 2.0 Conference and I’ll say it again. Be careful of circling the wagons. From the outside looking in, it can have a whole different look to it.

    I don’t know what is the right way or wrong way or even if there is a right or wrong way to show support in one direction or another.

    I do feel, however, that regardless of how you personally go about showing your support in either direction, don’t get all pissy and cry foul when someone does the same to you or something you support.

  4. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to handle these situations either. The best thing is to continue to do what you feel/know is right and don’t pass judgement.

  5. Agriculture needs to have a proactive communications effort that goes beyond just the cute facts about how many pounds of potatoes goes into your average holiday dinner.
    Look at the effort made (and money spent) by groups such as HSUS, PETA, the Sierra Club and other agricultural antagonists. Maybe agriculture’s problem is it plays too much defense and doesn’t play enough offense when it comes to its communications efforts.

  6. Frankly I’m ready to jump in with both feet and help agriculture score some points with consumers. I’m tired of reading the same stuff in ag publications and the mainstream media about agriculture!
    Einstein once remarked that doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is “insane.”
    It’s time to bring some sanity to ag communications.

  7. Wanda and Caryl – I completely agree with everything you say – yet ironically – I am guessing perhaps I don’t agree with what you believe….. I don’t believe the Chic-Fil-A controversy is over the right for their CEO to believe anything, or their right to funnel money into groups seeking to prevent Gay Marriage…. It’s rather as Wanda states: how do we maintain our freedom of choice? When a “certain group of people” (ie Chik-Fil-a and non-profits) with a “certain goal” forces an agenda (ie “traditional biblical marriage”) that removes the freedom for gay people to marry each other – this becomes a problem for those of us who actually care about freedom.

    So I guess we all agree then – any single consenting adult in the US should have the right to marry any other single consenting adult they freely choose (though I suppose this would infringe on the traditional biblical marriages of the mormons – we can’t all be perfect) 😉 There are better places to get chicken that don’t harm freedom.

    Get real guys – you’re free to believe what you want – let gay people be free to get legally married – your churches don’t have to recognize it – just the government….

  8. Ryan, thanks for the shout out in your post. I applaud you for raising these questions with your readers as they apply to agriculture.

    Farming is being challenged in ways I couldn’t have imagined. One of your readers commented above, why should farmers have to defend themselves when all they do is grow and provide food to feed the world? That’s a very good question. It’s sad to me that farming, like Christianity, is being put on the defensive in America.

    I didn’t really know before my Chick-fil-A post how great the divides are in this country and how important it is that we uphold and protect First Amendment rights and the Constitution as a whole. I need no further convincing.

    Onward and upward, Ryan. Keep telling your story and engaging your readers.

  9. I really don’t feel that Chick-Fil-A is forcing any type of agenda on to the consumers. It’s a fast food joint…bottom line!! I haven’t seen any propaganda from the folks at Chick-Fil-A promoting one lifestyle over another. I haven’t read one story about upset employees who feel they are discriminated against for their lifestyle choices. So what is the big deal?

    I also believe discrimination works both ways and in a world that thrives on “neutral” stances it’s refreshing to hear of a company to pick a side. Because the world is not neutral, we are not conflict free! Would a company that celebrates alternative lifestyles really be less controversial? It would depend on who you would ask.

    As for the call to boycott company’s and how we handle food issues in agriculture I think it’s time to ask ourselves who are we really hurting? Because when the chips are down these fast food chains still need our agricultural products. We may not like the way they gave into HSUS pressure but we still have to supply those restaurant chains with the products…by not supporting those establishments we are hurting our fellow farmers down the line in theory? Right?

    While on this train of thought I have had a light bulb moment…and I wanted to throw this idea your way and maybe get some feedback. If it wasn’t for large contracts dictating to producers cages size/gestation size I think ag producers would have more influence and boycotting would be more affective. If we were still large numbers of independent producers we would not have to adhere to deals struck between companies and HSUS regarding how our animals are raised. We would have some leverage. Thoughts??

  10. Americans are a hard group to change no matter how you go about it. One or two voices among millions often fail to be heard. For far to long, the only voices being raised in agriculture were based on economic concerns. It has taken people like Ryan to engage the American consumer and report in an honest non-biased way to get Agriculture’s point across to the consumer. By continuing in these efforts, I hope there can be continued change for the good in our industry.

    But as to Chic-Filet and gay marriage, they are a private corporation that has always made it very clear about their very traditional biblical background. I think you will see more people boycotting them than not which is more of a comment on the moral,religious state of our nation than anything else.

    I am going to agree with another commenter that in refusing to supply restaurants just because they align with HSUS or for whatever reason, we may in the long run hurt ourselves. Because those corporations will simply import food/produce from other countries.

    I think the only hope that we have in agriculture is to continue to engage the everyday American consumer on a positive level and build relationships so they can see the good things that we are doing in agriculture. Then we can hope to make changes in our businesses and our nation.

    Keep up the good work Ryan.

  11. I don’t see the Chik-fil-a hubbub as an agriculture problem at all. It’s a merchant problem. The Cathys and Chik-fil-a are not food producers. They are food traders and sellers, yes? However, the repercussions of the Chik-fil-a stance pose an interesting problem to chicken ranchers who may now feel obligated to make a political response in some way. If that does not upset you, the rancher, it should. Here is my take on the Chik-fil-a circus and the reason it does upset me:

    In a nutshell, it makes a political chess piece out of a drumstick.

    Now, I’ve gathered from a number of comments to your blogs that food producers just want to grow the food and supply it to the masses. That’s great. Chik-fil-a should have exactly the same attitude. It does not. Corporations are not political persons and have no voice in human political affairs. They should not be funneling profits into political agenda programs. PAC’s and SuperPAC’s are pain-in-the-arse enough. We don’t need this development that Chik-fil-a’s antics exemplify. This trend threatens to steer the discourse away from the public square and the voting booth where it belongs, and into the corporate-consumer power structure. It seriously undermines the democratic process altogether. Am I being clear enough? Corporations entering into politics jeopardizes the American experiment, and if unchecked could even weaken the role of the nation-state. It’s that serious.

    Regardless of our sentiments about the specific issue (whether gays should be allowed to marry), Chik-fil-a must have a sock shoved down its throat for trying to speak at a table where it does not belong. If I patronized Chik-fil-a, I would be boycotting it not because of its stance on gays, but because it has overstepped its bounds.

    But I don’t eat at Chik-fil-a anyway. I tend to steer clear of fast food. It just doesn’t taste good. I am no master chef, but the food from my home garden and my kitchen is infinitely better.

    (Just as a note, I’ll make a distinction. Private organizations such as churches, Boy Scouts, etc., serve a select population that subscribes to their views and volunteers to abide by them. A merchant selling indiscriminately to the public such as Chik-fil-a has no business financing or pushing political statements.)

    1. Sounding alarmist, aren’t I? 🙂 But cosmopolitan-silky-sophisticated-suburban-Greeky-heady end-of-line consumers like me have to think about things like this. Voting is a citizen’s right in these parts. It shouldn’t cost me a dollar.

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