If Texas Farmers Want Chipotle To Buy Their Beef, They Should Stop Feeding Antibiotics To Cattle

Yesterday, the Commissioner of the Texas Dept. of Agriculture wrote to the founder and CEO of burrito chain Chipotle, saying he was “shocked” by Chipotle’s “foolish” decision to buy beef from cattle raised in Australia when there are so many cattle farmers in the Lone Star State, accusing the company of abandoning American farmers — but glossing over the fact that the domestic supply is limited if Chipotle wants to stick to its guns about using antibiotic-free beef.

In a recent op-ed piece for Huffington Post, Chipotle CEO Steve Ells explained his company’s decision to import beef from Australia.

Citing a historically small headcount of cattle in the U.S. in recent years plus the inability of existing farms to meet Chipotle’s particular “Responsibly Raised” standards, which include a prohibition on the use of medically unnecessary antibiotics, Ells says the choice was to either start using meat that doesn’t live up to the promise his company has made to consumers or look elsewhere.

“Rather than serve conventionally raised steak, we recently began sourcing some steak from ranches in Southern Australia, which is among the very best places in the world for raising beef cattle entirely on grass,” he wrote at the time.

But this was seen as an insult to Commissioner Todd Staples, who wrote to Ells, “I am shocked by your recent decision to start serving meat that’s been shipped in from more than 8,000 miles away. I also was dismayed by your misguided and irresponsible declaration that this meat is somehow more ‘responsibly raised’ than meat produced by Texas ranchers.”

Except the Ells op-ed never once mentions Texas, though it does go into detail about how the beef from Australia goes above and beyond the standards set by even the grass-fed farmers in the U.S.

“Your decision to forego American beef is premature,” writes Staples. “In fact, the decision seems to abandon the work you and your company have accomplished in supporting local farming.”

So he’s effectively telling Chipotle that they should serve meat that doesn’t meet its own standards while waiting for both the cattle herd to grow in size and for more farmers to stop feeding their animals antibiotics that serve no purpose other than to encourage tissue rapid, unnatural tissue growth (while also encouraging the development of drug-resistant pathogens).

While Staples invites Chipotle to meet with him and with Texas cattle farmers (as if a company that bought 45 million pounds of domestic beef last year has never thought of having a sit-down), but doesn’t once mention any efforts to cut down on the huge amount of antibiotics that are added to cattle feed by livestock farmers.

The best way for cattle farmers to get the business of Chipotle and others who don’t want drugged-up beef is for them to simply stop using these unnecessary drugs, which account for an estimated 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S.

And this doesn’t mean following the weak-kneed FDA guidance on antibiotics, which only asks that drug companies stop selling their antibiotics for non-medical purposes. As we’ve repeatedly stated in the past, all this does is compel farmers to change the stated reason for over-use of these drugs. Now the millions of pounds of antibiotics will be used for “prophylactic” disease prevention and just happen to have the benefit of fattening up the animals who devour them.

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