It’s not at all unusual to hear about food companies — maybe most famously, Chipotle — caving to the heavy-handed pressures of animal rights activists and others who want to change how livestock are produced or even end animal agriculture altogether.
All too often, the calls for certain practices such as cage-free eggs and bans on tail-docking and hog gestation crates are not entirely based on fact and instead aim to cultivate fear and guilt among consumers as a way to get them in the door. Some deceptive marketing campaigns have wrongly claimed rampant hormone and antibiotic use in the industry, leading to labeling confusion.
Seldom do we hear about a restaurant speaking out in support of what farmers do and standing its ground against the activists, but that’s exactly what Domino’s Pizza is doing.
Speaking earlier this month at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit in Kansas City, Tim McIntyre, Domino’s Pizza executive vice president for communication, investor relations and legislative affairs, put forth some refreshing opinions in defense of farmers and what they do to put food on our tables.
“We will never tell a farmer how to farm. We will never tell a rancher how to raise his or her animals,” McIntyre said in an interview at the event with Brownfield Ag News. “What we believe is they’re the experts. They have the most vested interest in raising their livestock. It’s not just a job, we recognize that. It’s a life and we appreciate that — and we’re not afraid to stand up and say it.”
According to the group’s website, the Animal Ag Alliance is “an industry-united, nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farm and fork.” They arm food industry stakeholders with responses to emerging issues, help food-chain influencers better understand modern animal agriculture and expose those who threaten the U.S. food security by spreading damaging misinformation.
The theme of the Stakeholders Summit was “Connect to Protect Animal Ag.” The conference focused on how all those with a vested interest in animal agriculture can find common ground and speak with a united voice instead of concentrating on the differences in production methods.
McIntyre’s summit topic was “Extremists in the Board Room: Responding to Activist Investors.”
McIntyre, who joined Domino’s in 1985 and has been in his current job for about a year, heads up the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based pizza chain’s internal communication, public and media relations, event management, crisis communication, philanthropy, investor and government relations functions.
He told Brownfield that the company operates under a simple philosophy: Farmers know best.
Of course, that’s not to say that Domino’s, like most food companies, hasn’t faced its share of pressure from “extremists,” as McIntyre calls them, but they have made a conscious effort to stand firm rather than turn around and place sometimes impractical demands on farmers regarding how they raise their livestock just to pacify a vocal minority.
It’s a strategy that, so far, has worked for Domino’s.
“Over the years, because we have taken the tact of what I’ll call ‘leaning into the punch’ — and we’ve taken the punch and sometimes we punch back — we’ve been lucky enough to see that the extremists will go away when they realize that we are not going to cave,” McIntyre said.
He told Brownfield that the best response is none at all because it doesn’t “give them a platform.” He went on to say that “the biggest mistake we make is believing that they are reasonable people. We’ve learned they’re not. That’s why they’re called extremists.”
McIntyre went so far as to urge Domino’s peers in the food industry to contact him for advice on how to handle extremists.
In this day and age, when it seems like agriculture must always be the one to bend, Domino’s stance could be viewed as risky. Culver’s, too, has been a staunch supporter of farmers and the next generation of agriculturists — the young people of the FFA.
This kind of respect for farmers should not go unnoticed or unrewarded by those of us in the agriculture industry. Just as we can purposely steer clear of companies that rely on misleading marketing tactics that attack farmers, we should support those businesses that support us.
If you have a Domino’s Pizza store near you, they undoubtedly would appreciate your patronage.