To Be or Not To Be—Responsibly Raised
I have to say….I could care less what type of beef you consume. After all, for most of us this is still America (see the YouTube video of the trucker and the Border Patrol agent), and we love our freedom of choice. Nowadays, that even goes for our beef, of which the consumer can find an abundance of choices. Really, it’s ok if you want your steak from a naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic free, grass fed bovine-it’s America and it is your choice. I draw the line though when it comes to slandering our hard working responsible American ranchers and farmers like Chipotle Mexican Grill founder, chairman, and co-CEO, Steve Ells has done.
If you haven’t heard the news, then I urge you to pay attention and keep reading. If you have heard, then go ahead and stay tuned. (I mean, I did continue writing.) Chipotle, recently announced that it was to start sourcing cattle from Australia for their “Responsibly Raised” completely grass fed cattle. Chipotle’s version of “Responsibly Raised” according to Ells is “cattle raised without added hormones, antibiotics or growth promotants by ranchers committed to humane animal husbandry.”
You can read his article here at, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-ells/conventional-vs-grassfed-_b_5405894.html.
My first ruff of the hair came from that term “responsibly raised”, and it’s been burning at me ever since I read Mr. Ells’ article. Now, I don’t know Mr. Ells particular educational background, but the Internet searches show he went to Boulder High School in Colorado, and then attended the University of Colorado, and at some point the Culinary Institute of America. So, I’m not sure where the fault is to be placed, but apparently someone missed out on learning what the definition of “responsible” means. Merriam-Webster cites responsible as: “having the job or duty of dealing with or taking care of something or someone, able to be trusted to do what is right or to do the things that are expected or required, involving important duties, decisions, etc., that you are trusted to do.”
I have never met a rancher or farmer that wasn’t responsible fundamentally (no, we’re not all angels and there is always room for improvement), but responsibility is an innate part of doing the job. It falls to the rancher to make sure the cattle are tended to, that quality food sources and clean water are available, land is taken care of, and that there is something for the future to use. Just peruse a few back posts of our Rancher Spotlight and you can see that theme in every CHB producer we visit with. Taking care of the livestock, the land, and preserving for the future- sounds like “having the job or duty of dealing with or taking care of something or someone” to me!
Responsible, “able to be trusted to do what is right or to do the things that are expected or required” Sure sounds like they were talking about ranchers and farmers when the dictionary wrote that part, too. To do what’s right? I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard a story about a rancher or farmer short changing just to make more money, but I could sure point the finger to some CEO’s. (Maybe if more CEO’s were raised on a ranch or farm we’d need a lot less oversight of their companies.) Speaking of, sure today’s rancher and farmers operate under an LLC, but it’s their livelihood on the line. There is no corporate boardroom with deep pocketed marketing campaigns to raise their sales. The most that the average rancher gets is an opportunity to make their stock as uniformly appealing as possible, (believe me, that’s not done over night) or to search out niche markets where they might have an opportunity. And, you can’t trim fat from a budget that never had any to begin with. As far as decisions, it is the ranchers call to make, and ultimately their decision they have to own up to if things do not work out. I bet we could count on one hand the number of CEO’s that would take that road if troubles were knocking at their door.
Finally, “involving important duties, decisions, etc. that you are trusted to do.” Do you think the definition writers meant something besides providing a consistent, safe, and nutritious product when they wrote that part as well? Our level of food safety is unparalleled-this isn’t a knock on other countries, but just a part of being the leaders of the world. We have to do it right. Do we bat .400 out of the box every time? No, accidents do happen. But, you can bet Dollars to Pesos that we hit .399! Again, this falls back to our ranchers being trusted to do this day in and day out. This is something of which the American rancher exceeds at because it’s in their blood, and it’s what they do. We all know we didn’t get into raising the worlds food supply because it was a quick way to get rich. We did it for other reasons. Some of you have heard me quote it, and I’ll say it again- a favorite line of mine from a John Wayne film- “I work for everybody that steps into a butcher shop and orders up a t-bone steak.” For our family ranch it’s about doing our part to help feed a world that is nearing 10 billion soon! That’s a lot of people that will need inexpensive, nutritious, great tasting protein like Certified Hereford Beef to keep them going.
Mr. Ells, this is where I challenge you to be “responsible.” I’m happy your business is growing and that means jobs for Americans, and you are servicing a demand. Although, we could argue it’s a niche market, and your typical consumer may not be the average citizen, that is not the point today. My economics degree background understands sourcing Australian beef, but I bet if we truly looked domestically there could be proper sourcing for your niche supply, all be it might mean less margins for you and your stockholders. However, let’s be responsible in identifying servicing your customers and making money to cover all the new expanded growth you are paying for, but not at the expense of short changing the American rancher by changing the definition of “responsible!”