Chick-fil-A has been in the news recently for a corporate position I do not want to discuss here. Suffice it to say, Chick-fil-A is a business that holds itself to certain ideals. Their work to advance the kingdom with their WinShape Foundation and by taking a stance on the Sabbath are to be commended. Taking a stance on your faith and values is something I respect, even if I disagree. I have no qualms about that.
However, what I am concerned about is Chick-fil-A’s place in a fast-food business that is not up to Christian standards with respect to human and animal welfare. Chick-fil-A, from what I can tell from their website, is operating in a typical fast-food restaurant model that damages our environment, is unkind and inhumane to animals and is integrally tied to modern slavery within the United States. I do not believe they are doing this maliciously, but like so many other people and organizations, are ignorance about food supply chains and the treatment of animals.
Modern slavery is one of the backbone’s of fast food’s use of tomatoes. Over the past 15 years, over 1,000 slaves have been freed within Florida alone. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) states that:
The ultimate solution to modern day slavery in agribusiness lies on the “demand side” of the US produce market – the major food-buying corporations that profit from the artificially-low cost of US produce picked by workers in sweatshop conditions which, in the worst cases, tip over into slavery. Ultimately, these corporations must leverage their vast resources and market influence as major produce buyers to clean up slavery and other labor abuses in their supply chains once and for all.
Chick-fil-A is not one of the restaurants that has signed on to the Fair Food Program set up by the Coalition of Immolakee Workers to insure that slavery is removed from their supply chains. Time and time again Scripture calls on the believer to care for those who are oppressed. As a Christian company, Chick-fil-A should respond to their Christian convictions and take part in the Fair Food Program. I do not know whether CIW has actively approached Chick-fil-A or not, but it would be a good step toward fighting modern slavery for Chick-fil-A to proactively sign on to the Fair Food Program as a sign of their willingness to combat slavery in the United States.
Beyond the produce, the chicken used at Chick-fil-A does not appear to be humanely raised, meeting only the USDA and National Chicken Council standards that are by no means a humane way to treat an animal. This is something I have detailed in other posts as being integral to a Christian view of eating (here, here, here, here and here). Yet, many Christians are ignorant of how their food is treated. Being in the business of providing food to people, Chick-fil-A should be well aware of how their chicken is raised and know that their provision of cheap, low cost, inhumanely raised chicken is complicit in the inhumane treatment of animals, is a harmful to the environment, endangers the public health and goes against a holistic Christian faith. Would I believe Chick-fil-A if they were ignorant of the actual treatment of workers or animals? Yes. I would. It goes without saying that the majority of people and businesses are not aware of the realities that have entrenched themselves within the agricultural industry over the past few decades.
Dan Cathy, a member of the Cathy family that owns Chick-fil-A, has said about his faith: ”You know, God wants us all to have an abundant life full of purpose and meaning. He wants us to be strong and courageous and to be bold in service to Him. He wants us to make good decisions so that we can leave a powerful legacy and lead others.” Cathy wants all to have an abundant life, yet for so many workers who may help pick the produce that is used at Chick-fil-A restaurants an “abundant life full of purpose and meaning” is not possible. The Cathy Family and Chick-fil-A are not afraid to stand up for something they believe in. If the Cathys and Chick-fil-A are willing to be “strong and courageous” for their faith I hope they heed the Christian call to be strong and courageous for the least of these. If the organization, as a Christian business, truly wants to “leave a powerful legacy and lead others,” they need take a hard look at their supply chain and make any changes necessary to insure that their values driven corporation is not built on inhumane treatment of animals, injustice against workers and modern day slavery. The same can be said for all of us as well.