Panera Bread Gets Farmer Backlash for “EZ Chicken” Campaign

Their anti-antibiotic chicken Tweets offended farmers

Panera Bread pulled their "EZ Chicken" campaign after complaints.

Panera Bread has pulled their “EZ Chicken” marketing initiative after farmers responded against it. The bakery café chain, which is also known as Saint Louis Bread Co., wanted to advertise their antibiotic-free chicken, but their EZ Chicken tweets and Facebook posts led to a #PluckEZChicken anti-campaign.

On July 23rd, dairy farmer Carrie Mess wrote a blog post against the EZ Chicken initiative. Panera Bread had released images depicting a pill-shaped chicken with captions such as, “I dreamt I was running. Does that count as working out?” and “Hard work pays off eventually, buy lazy pays off now.”

Mess saw this as an accusation that farmers and ranchers are lazy. “This [campaign] idea sounds more like one of those interns who gets pissed off and tries to take down a company via Twitter,” she wrote. “I mean really, who in the world would approve a marketing campaign that insults the very people that provide every scrap of ingredient that makes your product?” Mess also pointed out that Panera’s “all natural” and “antibiotic free” labels are misleading, since “all chicken must meet the standards that the USDA has in place for antibiotic withholding, regardless of production practices.”

Michael Simon, Panera Bread’s chief marketing officer, called Mess to discuss her blog post and said that the EZ Chicken campaign wasn’t intended to offend farmers. Afterwards, Panera Bread deleted their EZ Chicken Twitter account and took down the EZ Chicken images on Facebook. Linn Parrish, their vice president of public relations, told Riverfront Times that Panera Bread, which started sourcing antibiotic-free chickens in 2004, has been “on the hard road working with farmers over these nine years to raise more chickens that have never, ever been treated with antibiotics.”

Mess is working with Animal Agriculture Alliance to mail a follow-up letter addressing their grievances with Panera’s anti-antibiotics campaign, which they will send out on August 6th.

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“The problem is that even after my conversation with Michael the company doesn’t seem to understand that the problem isn’t them using chicken raised without the use of antibiotics, the problem is using a marketing campaign that uses fear to sell sandwiches,” Mess said on her blog.