Friday, September 18, 2015

Ethical meat retailers hit ethical challenges

The leading U.S. food retailers who stake their claims on ethics are having difficulty finding farmers who live up to the image they’re marketing.

Whole Food Markets is on the hot seat after one of its pork suppliers in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania was found out radically changing operations from the video Whole Foods uses in marketing.

And Chipotle restaurant chain had so much trouble sourcing antibiotic-free pork that it turned to a supplier in England. Now it turns out that the supplier uses antibiotics, albeit not as a growth promotant.

Whole Foods’ video shows chickens, cows and hogs roaming fields. However, the farmer has dropped everything else to concentrate on pigs, has built four hooped structures and has increased his herd from 80 to 3,000 sows.

They no longer roam outdoor pastures, although the owner told reporters he hopes to soon do that.

Whole Foods is standing behind its supplier, probably because there’s nobody else who could fill in if his pork supply is cut off.

The demand for organics has increased by 11 per cent again this year, but while that’s more or less the normal annual increase, it’s now coming on top of a much larger volume.

There are also signs that egg suppliers are having difficulty meeting cage-free standards.

The widespread promises to buy only hogs from farms that no longer use sow gestation crates will begin to bite in 2017 and hog farmers whose profit margins are being squeezed – some to the point of losses – will be hard-pressed to find the funds to finance sow housing that will meet their customers’ public promises.