I’ll have the chicken, hold the assault
Culver’s, known for its Butter Burgers and frozen dairy treats, has a line of premium chicken sandwiches and tenders, featuring antibiotic-free poultry. Perhaps not what one would expect from the company that proclaims “Thank You Farmers!”
But is the message indeed inconsistent? It might seem so when agriculturalists are up in arms about recent campaigns run by Chipotle and Panera. There has to be a little closer examination of the tone of the campaigns for context, however.
Culver’s ad features a real farmer (“Sammy” ) who thinks what he’s doing is good. Culver’s co-founder Craig Culver talks about how good his restaurant’s “natural” chicken is (without telling us what an “unnatural” chicken is.) Both guys are saying “our chicken is good” without any grand condemnation of any practices they deem objectionable.
Dr. Scott Hurd in a recent Food and Farm episode talked about how advertisers used to extol the virtues of their product without criticizing anyone else. Dr. Nevil Speer, in a different episode of Food and Farm, pointed out the positive image of using food producers in the advertising, as Culver has done.
And then there’s Panera. Their campaign, which farmers got so hot about, featured a pill-like poultry-esque character called EZChicken and plenty of references that left little doubt that they were making a critical statement about conventional agriculture.
Taking things a step – maybe several steps – further, Chipotle released it’s ad and internet game “The Scarecrow,” which manufactures a whole new house of horrors in an attempt to vilify modern agriculture and gain the ethical upper hand by suggesting that consumers should be terrified of any food offering but theirs.
Is it OK for Culver’s to wave the all-natural, antibiotic-free banner which, as benign as their ads appear, is still misleading? No, and the agriculture community should engage them as they have attempted to engage Panera and Chipotle. Hopefully, the fast food chain that thanks farmers will be sensitive to the message.