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Farmers return fire at Panera Bread Company

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Farmers fire back at Panera Bread Company after viewing social media posts on antibiotic use in chickens.

It amazes me how social media allows American farmers and ranchers to respond when companies fire shots across agriculture’s bow. No longer can ridiculous blanket statements by marketers and media mavens with an agenda and a false premise go unchallenged.

Panera Bread Company recently garnered heavy return fire on Twitter and elsewhere after the company posted some over-the-top insinuations about the slothfulness of farmers and their use of antibiotics in chickens.

A Twitter account that has since been taken down accused poultry farmers of being “lazy” – their words, not mine – for using antibiotics. Do the marketing gurus at Panera and other self-righteous advocates mock and criticize their own doctors as “lazy” when they need antibiotics for diagnosed conditions, or do they snatch up their prescription paper and make a bee line for the local pharmacy?

“It’s very easy to sell fear,” said Martina Newell-McGloughlin on the topic of biotechnology at a recent regulatory conference of the Western Plant Health Association. Newell-McGloughlin directs the University of California’s Biotechnology Research and Education Program.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance talks about the necessity of keeping animals and healthy through the proper use of antibiotics and other approved means. Even farmers of organically-raised livestock use antibiotics, though the use forces them to later sell their livestock to conventional producers after the proper withdrawal periods have been met.

I know an organic dairy producer who does this. His personal ethos to produce organic milk doesn’t get in the way of his desire to raise his animals humanely and doing all in his power to keep them from suffering as much as possible, even if that does require the use of antibiotics.

While it remains to be seen how the latest boycott of Panera Bread Company pans out, agriculture has the tools through social media and blogs to promote its message of responsibility to consumers. Judging from the buzz on some social media sites, it seems to be working.

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