Not So Fast, Panera

Jul 31, 2013 by

Here is the latest post I wrote for Illinois Farm Families:

As a former advertising professional, I try to stay informed on the current state of affairs in the ad world. It’s not uncommon for friends in the industry to send me updates and bounce ideas off of each other. Normally, that is a fun break for me from farm life and it helps me feel connected with the non-agriculture parts of the world. The other day a friend shared Panera Bread’s new ad campaign. When she said I should check it out, I was extra excited because I used to work for a Panera franchisee who owned several locations. When I worked for them, Panera made a concerted effort, as a company, to be kind, honest and inclusive both to their staff and their customers.  That’s one reason I signed on with them in the first place.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Panera Bread has begun marketing the chicken sold in their cafes as “antibiotic free.”  Talk about false advertising!  ALL chicken sold in the US has to go through a withdrawal period before it can be sold. This means that whether your chicken never had medication in its life or whether it got sick, needed care and was medicated before a withdrawal period, it doesn’t matter…both could be considered “antibiotic free.”

I believe everyone has the right to choose the type of foods they feel are right for their families, but if you are interested in eating organic/non-GMO/etc., please do not be duped by Panera’s misguiding advertising. It is possible that meat in your Panera sandwich came from a chicken that was once given an antibiotic. It is important to note, the USDA considers all claims that a product is “antibiotic-free” to be unprovable. So what does that tell you?  Probably a little stretching of the  facts involved with this campaign.

But what really shocked me were the images used in the campaign. The first is from their Twitter account for “EZ Chicken,” the cartoon mascot featured heavily in their ads.



The second is one of the actual ads.


Are they seriously creating an entire campaign based around the idea that farmers, are lazy?!  As a farmer, you can imagine I might take offense.

My husband’s family got out of the livestock business because livestock farming is 24/7/365. You don’t get a break. You don’t get a vacation. If it rains, the cows still need to be fed and milked; you don’t get an automatic “freebie” day off. So please explain to me, Panera, how exactly are farmers lazy?

If they are implying that by using antibiotics a farmer is lazy, that is simply absurd. Let’s look at this from the farmers’ perspective. Chickens are their livelihood. If the chicken gets sick and dies, the farmer hasn’t done a good job caring for the animal AND the farmer loses money. So the farmer doesn’t profit from being lazy. If your child were sick, wouldn’t they get antibiotics?  Of course they would. That doesn’t make you a lazy parent!  As parents, we are responsible for doing everything we can to keep our children healthy. Farmers are responsible for doing everything they can to keep their chickens healthy.

Even if you aren’t a livestock farmer, or even a farmer at all, your sense of fair play has to wonder about Panera’s approach. No matter what your opinions are on antibiotic use in animals, we can all agree that singling out an entire group of people for public name-calling is not right.

What happened to kind, honest, inclusive Panera?

After hundreds of complaints via their Facebook page, Panera says they will remove all EZ Chicken references from their Facebook page. That doesn’t solve the problem, but at least they’re attempting to listen to the consumers. We shall see, Panera. We shall see.

As a former employee, I am embarrassed. As a farm wife, I am outraged.



*I think it’s important to share something with you guys.  As you know, I have a laundry list of pet peeves. 🙂  But I don’t think calling this issue a “pet peeve” really does it justice.  It’s more than a pet peeve for me when a corporation starts messing with families, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.  Although I do not choose to purchase solely organic/non-GMO food for my family, I think every family has the right to make INFORMED choices for themselves.  It’s pretty hard to make an informed choice when you are constantly bombarded by media messages chock full of false information.  It hurts my heart that there very likely are families out there who think that, by spending extra at Panera, they are making a better choice for their families when, in all likelihood, it’s not a better choice but the EXACT SAME choice as everywhere else.  As I said in the post, no matter what your opinion is on antibiotic use in animals, please do not be duped by their false messages.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: