‘DairyCarrie’ takes on Panera
Carrie Mess, a Lake Mills, Wis. dairy farmer, has taken Panera Bread Co. to task over a marketing initiative she says uses fear to sell chicken sandwiches. And, she's now teamed up with the Animal Agriculture Alliance to send follow-up letters to Panera, seeking others to help solidify their position about the company’s anti-antibiotics campaign.
Mess, who recently joined DairyBusiness Communications as Social Media manager, is one of the nation’s top advocates for dairy producers, blogging (dairycarrie.com) about her adventures on her husband Patrick’s family dairy farm. Her displeasure with Panera resulted from a recent stop at the restaurant, where she learned of the company’s “EZChicken” campaign in a menu.
When she checked the company’s website, Mess found Panera’s marketing campaign featured an animated chicken, called EZ Chicken, made to look like a medicine capsule, and implying competitor restaurants served chicken from poultry raised on antibiotics because “It's just easier.” The Panera animation also including a red barn made of drug capsules, and indicates “Hard work pays off eventually, but lazy pays off now.”
Writing in her blog, Mess said the Panera campaign labeled producers who use antibiotics as “lazy.”
“I used antibiotics to help a sick calf get better last week; my friends the organic farmers had a cow with pneumonia and they gave that cow antibiotics to make her better,” Mess said. “They had to sell her, but she lived. Does that mean we are lazy? Is it lazy to take care of our sick animals?”
Mess contends the campaign uses fear in attempt to differentiate its product from other restaurants’ chicken sandwiches, even though all chicken must meet USDA standards for antibiotic withholding, regardless of production practices. In addition, she said, several years ago many of the major chicken producers came together and pledged to not use non-therapeutic or prophylactic antibiotics.
In a phone conversation with Mess to discuss her blog post, Panera’s Chief Marketing Officer Michael Simon said the company would review its marketing campaign and take down images and references to “EZChicken.” In addition, the company would post something on Facebook that “clarified their viewpoint.”
The letter campaign with the Animal Agriculture Alliance – with a Panera delivery target date of Aug. 6 – will include specific grievances with the advertisements, and will attempt to set up a meeting where Mess and other industry representatives can begin a conversation with Panera officials to discuss their current and future ad campaigns. Find the letter at http://dairycarrie.com/2013/08/01/supportfarmers/.
“While we appreciate the fact that they’ve removed portions of the EZChicken campaign, I think we can all agree there’s still loads of room for improvement,” Mess said. “We really want this letter to make a big impact, so I would like to invite you all to join me in support by signing your name to the letter. We would love to get as many of your signatures on it as possible.”
“Join me in telling Panera Bread Co. that this is not OK,” Mess said.
Mess, DBC’s regular Social Media columnist (@dairycarrie), has had an active role working with the AgChat Foundation, helping to train more farmers, ranchers and ag professionals on how to use social media to connect with our customers and tell the stories of our food. She can be reached via email: email@example.com; Twitter: @DairyCarrie; Facebook: facebook.com/dairycarrie; or her blog: dairycarrie.com.