Activist-influenced food pledges increase poverty rates

Restaurants who act too quickly to sourcing only animal protein products such as cage-free eggs, slower-growing broilers, crate-free pork and meat from animals raised without antibiotics, they are harming the overall economy, according to Dr. Dan Thomson, Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology, Kansas State University.

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Dr. Dan Thomson, Kansas State University, says when restaurants respond to fear tactics from activists, it drives up the cost of food and the poverty level. | Roy Graber
Dr. Dan Thomson, Kansas State University, says when restaurants respond to fear tactics from activists, it drives up the cost of food and the poverty level. | Roy Graber

Restaurants who act too quickly to sourcing only animal protein products such as cage-free eggs, slower-growing broilers, crate-free pork and meat from animals raised without antibiotics, they are harming the overall economy, according to Dr. Dan Thomson, Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology, Kansas State University.

Tomson, speaking at the 2017 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, expressed frustration with the amount of restaurant chains to jump on the bandwagon of perceived animal welfare issues, pushed by animal rights activists.

Activists using the fear factor

“Activists today are masquerading as the consumers. They are having the fear factor, or trying to get the food groups or food brands, to market the fear agendas,” said Thomson.

While Thomson said fear could be a dangerous tactic, but it has proven effective for those who use it.

Restaurants fighting for business of the wealthy

The cost of production for most of the farming practices pushed by animal rights activists is higher than traditional production methods, and those costs are eventually passed on to the consumer, not only in restaurants, but also at the grocery store.

However, Thomson believes that restaurants are not that concerned about how changes in production practices can affect the price of food at the supermarket.

“Restaurants do not feed the poor. Restaurants feed the rich. Restaurants feed the people who can afford to have someone else plan the meal, cook the meal and do the dishes. We have only spent 4 percent of our personal income since 1929 – it has not gone up or gone down – on restaurants, on food outside the home. It’s a captive supply for those restaurants that they’re all fighting over,” he said.

“They’re all fighting over people who have money The rich can afford to err on the side of safety. The poor people in this country just want to eat.”

A plea to retailers

Thomson said that when a restaurant chain announces that they will transition to meat and poultry raised without antibiotics, consumers do not instantly say they will eat out more. He wants restaurant and grocery chain executives to understand this.

“Please, retailers, have patience,” Thomson said. “This is about sustainability of mankind and providing food for people in an affordable manner. Poverty in this country is determined by the price of food, and it has been since 1963. If you increase the price of food without increasing the income of people in the country, you increase the poverty rate. I don’t think restaurants understand that they can be inadvertently increasing the rate of poverty in the United States, which diminishes your tax dollar, because it increases the amount of people relying on food stamps.”

Presently, Thomson said, about 25 percent of households in the United States live under the poverty mark.

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