Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Take out Tyson: Bon Appetit responds to Food Truth’s letter

<y 10, 2011

Taylor Owen of Food Truth makes a convincing case for avoiding  factory-farmed chicken. We commend his interest in fixing the problems in America’s meat supply: real change is indeed needed to protect human health, the natural environment, and the welfare of animals raised for food.

Bon Appétit Management Company has sought out small, family-scale farms as suppliers since 1999 and aggressively pushes bigger suppliers to meet higher food-production standards. In 2003 we were the first food service company to set a national meat-purchasing policy aimed at reducing the routine use of nontherapeutic antibiotics in farm animals.

Twenty-five percent of meat purchased at Carleton is from farms enrolled in our “Farm to Fork” program — located within 150 miles, owner-operated, with annual sales of $5 million or less. Over the past seven months, a full 19% of all food we purchased for Carleton came from Farm to Fork suppliers. The numbers are growing and will continue. However, none of the local small chicken farms can come close to meeting all of our chicken needs at prices students can afford.

Which is why over the past year we have been actively looking for more midsized farms around the country that raise chicken (and beef and pork) humanely and without antibiotics, and that treat their staff fairly. In January I blogged about visiting one such poultry operation, for The Atlantic, contrasting the experience with the kinds of chicken factories Owen condemns.

Meanwhile, Tyson is an acceptable option for much of the chicken we serve. Owen’s statement that “Tyson chickens are full of antibiotics” is incorrect. Tyson was the first major producer to voluntarily reduce the amount of antibiotics in its chickens’ feed, and the company complies with our standard of producing birds without the nontherapeutic use of medically important antibiotics. This is important progress. The Food and Drug Administration recently revealed that in 2009, farm animals were given 28.8 million pounds of antibiotics, or roughly 70% of the U.S. supply. Tyson is helping to staunch this regrettable tsunami of drugs whose overuse is compromising public health.

Bon Appétit can make a huge difference to small farms and has some clout with major suppliers due to our purchasing volume. We believe that change happens not only from supporting small producers, but also by actively pushing improvements among the big producers that control the vast majority of the nation’s food supply. We have met with Tyson and made it clear that the company’s animal welfare standards are not what we and our guests are looking for — and that many other regional chicken companies are beginning to deliver.

We share the same goals as Owen: to drive change at companies whose products fill our plates. But if we simply walk away from the biggest suppliers, we lose the power to influence their practices. 

We welcome an open discussion at Carleton and hope we can continue to work together for a better food system.

Helene York
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Bon Appétit Management Company

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *