wild harvest label

Dear County Market,

In our small town, we are very lucky to have the convenience of your supermarket.

Your market, while not as large as ones in metropolitan areas and without a vast selection of every possible food imaginable, is so wonderful to have in our community. Your staff is friendly, helpful, efficient, and kind. When I needed cilantro, you got it out of the back (fresh off the truck, mind you) for me. When I needed birthday cupcakes for my daughter, you made them with less than 24 hours notice. I recognize checkers as parents who sit on the bleachers during basketball games, and your store’s size is small enough for me to navigate with my toddler and twins, without the fear of losing anyone, or my mind for that matter.

Your store’s location, good coupons, and impact on the local economy keeps me coming back.

Until yesterday.

I sent Joe, my husband, to your store to pick up a few last minute items for my daughter’s birthday party. While we were prepping for a happy day, he came home, fuming.

Joe is an agricultural professional. We used to be beef producers, and while currently do not operate a commercial cattle business, we understand the impact fear mongering and anti-agriculture marketing places on local farmers. Your company, based in Quincy, Illinois has decided to hop on the bandwagon of fear based, inaccurate, and shameful advertising for their meat products.

The checker at your store, while thanking Joe for coming in, handed him this card. She handed Joe, a Beef Quality Assurance Certified producer, who has taken multiple Beef classes in college from Tom Carr, one of the nation’s top experts in all things beef, this card:

The picture is not the best, but you developed it, you should know what it says. However, let me tell you how it makes us feel:
We are angry.
We are confused.
We are frustrated.
We are fuming.

I’m not shaming the checker. She was just doing her job. However, your company, as I stated before, based in America’s heartland where food is produced safely and efficiently, has decided to confuse consumers.

This card seems friendly, almost fancy. One may feel bad tossing it in the trash, as it is made of heavy, glossy stock. The size of a business card, this card could be tucked into a mom’s wallet and referred to as she navigates the meat counter. It is simply worded, elegantly composed, and, from my layman’s perspective, a marketing home run.

Billed as an FAQ for consumers for your new Wild Harvest product line (antibiotic and hormone free meat), its underlying message is anti conventional agriculture, anti food choice, and offensive to those in the beef production industry.

In your attempt to give consumers more information, more choice, more options, your message has stated that conventional beef producers, those who follow guidelines of animal husbandry, tend to their animals with the utmost care, are doing it incorrectly, and thus, will harm these consumers if their product is purchased.

While you concisely stated that “the animals raised and harvested for this program have never received antibiotics or added hormones-ever!” (Note the exclamation point. Your grammar, not mine.), you mention that those animals who do receive antibiotics are pulled out of your pool to be used in this program. However, you failed to mention that when animals, whether beef cattle, poultry, pork, etc., do receive antibiotics, by the time they are ready to be harvested and in the meat case, those antibiotics are out of the animal’s system, causing no harm to the consumer. In other words, they once had used antibiotics, but are now free of any trace of them. While I’m not condoning juicing up animals on hormones, or using medicine at a rate that is unnecessary, your advertising is misleading.

Strike that, your advertising is not just misleading, it’s yet another example of fear based advertising, confusing consumers, and painting a picture that conventional agricultural practices are going to hurt folks.

Another sticking point I have is the statement, “Animals must be humanely raised and handled safely at all times.”

That’s a requirement for this new Wild Harvest product line.

Once again, while you are not directly stating that conventional producers are not being kind with their animal husbandry practices, the insinuation is there. The tone is there, and if it’s one thing I have learned as a mother, a writer, a friend, it’s not always the words that are said, it’s the tone in which it’s expressed that can cause alarm.

I am all for food choice. While I am one to defend the industry, I am not so brazen to believe that everyone should buy what I buy. A family must do what is right for themselves, but this advertising is insinuating that our former livelihood, our community’s heartbeat, is incorrect, unsafe, and inhumane.

And that is unacceptable.

I charge you, County Market and SuperValu to share openly, in just as pleasant of a light, conventional meat practices. I want to have an FAQ for the other choice I have, and I want it in soft colors on glossy paper.

I want you to continue to support our local producers, or I will have to forfeit my business from your store.

Emily Webel
Confessions of a Farm Wife blogger and Agricultural Advocate

Emily Webel

About Emily

We farm with Emily’s dad, uncle, grandpa and neighbor in central Illinois. We raise corn, soybeans and cattle. Growing up as a farm kid, Joe wanted to raise our six children with the opportunities that only farm kids have, like showing cattle and helping with harvest.

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