Let's create a 'Domino's' effect

You can’t make pizza without farmers. There’d be no crust, no cheese, no tomato sauce, no sausage, no pepperoni, no veggies. That illustration is so universal that it’s often used to show kids how agriculture impacts their everyday life.

One of the nation’s top pizza chains has vocally recognized its interdependence on farmers. During the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s Stakeholders Summit in Kansas City, Mo., Tim McIntyre, Domino’s executive vice president of communications, delivered a striking yet resounding message: His company believes farmers know best.

“We will never tell a farmer how to farm,” he said. “We will never tell a rancher how to raise animals. They’re the experts. They have the most vested interest in raising their livestock. It’s not just a job. It’s a life, and we appreciate that—and we’re not afraid to stand up and say it.”

That philosophy is refreshing in an era when animal-rights groups have pressured many top food companies and restaurant chains to adopt stricter animal-welfare policies, such as cage-free eggs and gestation-crate-free pork. But Domino’s, with its 9,000 stores worldwide, said “enough.” Enough scare tactics. Enough misinformation. Enough coercing corporate boards. Enough decision-making by people who have never set foot on a farm.

Domino’s knows how to produce pizza. Farmers know how to produce pizza ingredients. Neither group should tell the other how to do its job. Simple, right?

Of course, the extremists disagree. McIntyre’s statements at the meeting in early May ignited a backlash from animal-rights groups, who called for a boycott of Domino’s “for its decision not to seek out more humane, healthy supply chains.” But the farming community has been just as loud—if not louder—in expressing gratitude for the company’s position. The Animal Agriculture Alliance, of which MFA Incorporated is a member, encouraged farmers to show appreciation to Domino’s through letters, thank-you cards and pizza parties. June 2 was even dubbed “Farmers Thank Domino’s Day” and the hashtag, #FarmersThankDominos, was used widely in social media.

The company’s history of standing up to extremists isn’t new. In 2012, Domino’s rejected a resolution by the Humane Society of the United States to require its suppliers to stop housing sows in gestation crates. In fact, 80 percent of shareholders voted against the resolution. Animal-rights activists called for a boycott of Domino’s pizza then, too.

After that news made headlines, Missouri hog farmer and “agvocate” Chris Chinn—now the state’s director of agriculture—blogged that “Domino’s decision speaks volumes to me as a farmer. It shows they trust the experts I trust. It shows they trust me. I appreciate that.”

And if you were wondering, the activists’ so-called boycotts haven’t made a dent in business for Domino’s. The company’s stock is up more than 2,000 percent since 2010. In fact, Domino’s growth has outpaced the world’s most successful tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

We all know there are bad actors in every industry, including agriculture. But in my experience, those examples are rare exceptions. I’ve spent the past 21 years visiting all kinds of livestock operations in several states—interviewing, photographing and writing about the farmers who produce our food. If there was something suspect about an operation, there’s a good chance I would have run across it. I haven’t.

Why? Because our farmers care. They want their animals to be more than profitable. They want their animals to thrive and perform. They want them to be healthy and productive and protected.

Most of you reading this are like me—familiar with modern agriculture. You already know these things. But much of the public doesn’t. Businesses face continuous pressure from those opposed to animal agriculture, and pushing back is not always easy. So it’s commendable to see Domino’s stand its ground and rely on the experts to determine the best way to raise an animal for food.

Domino’s choice is supreme, not extreme. Other restaurants and food companies would do well to follow that example, and the farming community should encourage them to do so. If we are more vocal about applauding and supporting companies who ignore anti-agriculture activisim, then we can help create a “Domino’s” effect with wide-reaching impact.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking Domino’s pizza sounds like a good idea for dinner tonight.

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