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Culver's CEO
Phil Keiser, president and CEO of Culver's, spoke at the 2016 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. | Roy Graber
on May 9, 2016

Culver’s CEO: Talk to restaurants before activists do

Restaurant chain executive says he hears more from the animal rights movement than he does from the agriculture community

At a time when more and more restaurant companies are adopting new animal welfare campaigns that appear to be more based on pressure from the animal welfare groups than on sound science, the CEO of one chain urged attendees of the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit to take their messages to the corporations.

Culver’s understands and appreciates agriculture

Phil Keiser, president and CEO of Culver’s, is an anomaly when it comes to restaurant chain executives. He was raised on a dairy farm and even was a dairy farmer himself for a brief time.  Because of his agricultural background, he values the farmers who raise the foods sold by his business.

One of the chain’s trademarks is a series of barns throughout the Midwest that are painted blue, with the message “Thank you FARMERS” painted in white lettering. The company has also been an active supporter of the National FFA program, giving free ice cream cones to people who donate to FFA and giving FFA jackets to members who may not be able to otherwise afford them.

Agriculture sector must reach out to corporations

During a time when numerous chains are bowing to pressure from animal rights groups on issues such as layer cages in egg production and gestation stalls in pig production, the agriculture industry has not been as vocal when it comes to telling their stories and sharing their concerns. That needs to change, he said.

“We need to not only reach out to consumers, we need to reach out to executives,” Keiser said.

Keiser added that he was at a restaurant industry event recently, where one top executive from a major restaurant chain was showing his lack of knowledge of agriculture. “His words were not accurate,” he said.

“I hear from the activists way more than I hear from the ag community,” he said.

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