Back To The Start – Chipotle Ad Draws Controversy

Questions of Science. Science through Progress. Nobody said it was easy. I’m going back to the start.

Chipotle Advertisement Cultivating a Better World Back to the Start Scarecrow
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Boy ole Willy Nelson sure knows how to strike a chord with a song of emotion. Sunday night’s Grammy awards broadcast included a Chipotle commercial featuring their Food With Integrity Campaign and a slogan of Cultivating a better world. The commercial has stirred up much emotion between consumer and agriculture groups alike. Some are fueled up fury while others are cheering the slander of factory farming. I’ve taken a few days to mull my thoughts over before posting about the event.

When the Back to the Start video was first posted on YouTube just a day before my birthday, I missed out on much of the conversation. I was just returning from a conference in Nashville and jumping on a plane for a week of ranch seclusion in Colorado. Many farmers had something to say about the video, and consumers cheered as the ad collected a couple million views. Daren Williams shared his thoughts on the topic that week, pointing out some specific phrasing in Chipotle’s own Food With Integrity statements.

“We do, however, face challenges associated with pursuing Food With Integrity. For example, current economic conditions have led to natural chicken and steak supply shortages. It can take longer to identify and secure relationships with suppliers meeting our criteria, and there are higher costs and other risks associated with purchasing naturally raised or sustainably grown ingredients. The growing time for naturally raised meat and sustainably grown vegetables can be longer. Herd losses can also be greater when animals are not treated with antibiotics and hormones and field losses can be higher for organically grown produce. Given the costs associated with natural and sustainable farming practices, and recently due to decreased demand as a result of the weak economic environment, many large suppliers have not found it economical to pursue business in this area.”

Even Chipotle admits they don’t always market “natural” and “sustainable” products.

Chipotle did a very good job of creating an advertisement that would A) Connect with audience emotions B) Share a story line C) Promote their ideals. My problem is the horridly skewed angle in which they present modern farming. I’m not a pork farmer and my experience on dairy farms is limited, but I do have experience on some of the largest beef cattle feeding operations in the country – which many refer to as factory farms.  There is a huge gap between public perception and reality when it comes to these modern production methods, and we have a long road ahead of us telling our side of the story.

Chipotle does a great job in selling their message, connecting with consumers, and putting modern farming practices in a negative light. Chipotle, don’t bite the hand that feeds you. If you’re going to advertise an ideal, stick to it, but hosting misconceptions does not make for good advertising.

To consumers, I encourage you to do one thing. You can have all of the food choices you want. Your dollar is your vote. This is a free country. But please go out and make an effort to connect with farmers and ranchers throughout this country. Start with local producers and branch out. The world of social media boasts and entire community of farmers and ranchers wait to hear your concerns and openly respond from their experiences.

How did you respond to the Chipotle ads? Will you continue supporting Chipotle restaurants?

Many in the online community decided to voice their opinions. Here is a sample. – What Does This Mean for Sustainable Business?

Standing Partnership – Great Ag Ad or Insult to Farmers?

30 Thousand Feet- Chipotle Proves You Can Be Both Cool & Kind

Harvest Public Media – Was Chipotle Ad ‘Eloquent’ or Ignorant?

PNW Rancher – Chipotle Sparks Conversation

American Society of Animal ScienceChipotle Sells Twisted Image of Animal Agriculture

Want to meet some real pork and dairy farmers? Meet Ryan Bright, Will Gilmer, Ray Prock, and Chris Chinn. These are just a few of the many farmers online, sharing their stories, and waiting help you learn more about your food sources.


  1. As usual I have to open my big mouth and vent about things that bother me. I have been on a mission to help bridge the disconnect between consumer and producer (farmers). As an ag reporter, I am in constant contact with those who raise and supply our food. They are, for the most part, good, conscientious, intelligent, well informed, savvy, people. Just like in everything, there has to be a few bad apples. But it has been my experience, in a lifetime of being with those who raise our food, that there are fewer bad apples in ag than in many other endeavors. I am really fed up with the controversies surrounding our food production put forth by many who have no idea what they are talking about. We have a world to feed and most farmers are doing it with integrity, intelligence, hard work and love.

  2. It is not the farmer that these things are referring to. It is the feed lot operators who feed the livestock masive amounts of antibiotics to keep them healthy in the feedlot environment.

    However, the average person does not know the difference between the farmer(rancher) and the feedlot.

    1. Charles you make a good point, and I am that person that has been on both sides of the fence. I grew up and have worked on several small, family operations, and I have worked at several large feedyards. I think we have some things to critique, but I don’t believe those larger operations are doing all bad things.

  3. Willie Nelson smoked waaaaaay too much pot and crack. But, the pot was probably raised illegally, but “sustainable” and we all know the drug culture is “sustainable”.

    Chipotle. Good food. Good price. Cheesy approach to market when you have to diss your
    competitors to sell. Taking advantage of the uninformed.

  4. Hello, Ryan. I just happened upon your blogsite tonight. I’ve bookmarked it so that I may try to read you up. I am no one of consequence, only a consumer concerned about our food supply.
    I don’t know what consensus you are finding among the end-consumer public. I can give you my impression: that food animal production on ethically run farms has lost some ground to industrialized operations. I am perfectly willing to hear you and learn from your side what what the state of the beef industry is.
    Of course, I am reading of exhausted dairy cows turned over to slaughter at age 4 instead of 20. We are hearing more and more about laying hens in 8″ cages, turkeys bludgeoned and swung onto trucks, and 80,000-head hog sites. These are not rumours, We have footage, Ryan, from many sources and they are posting them on YouTube left and right. Certainly you must be aware of the film “Earthlings,” possibly the most powerful indictment against industrialized ag practice to date.
    None of this is to say that I, at least, believe the food industry has been overrun by such nefarious practices. But if you and I both accept that such facilities exist, then I hope you hear me when I offer to you that the occasional, “Yeah, there are a few bad apples in every biz; what can you do?” is too dismissive and much to your detriment. Those bad apples are poisoning the barrel, my dear. You need to pay attention to them.
    Perhaps I will learn of your views on what I have remarked on here as I explore your blogsite. I’d like to know whether you think about poultry and pork producers, and how their practices also cast color on the beef industry. And I wonder what you think of the agrarian popularizer Joel Salatin.
    Thanks again, Ryan. I’ve much to learn from you.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and reading some of my posts, Julianne. I hope that I’ve answered some of your questions on various posts from the past years. My experience is mostly with raising beef cattle, but if you’ll see throughout my site, I’ve featured various dairy, poultry, and pork farmers from across the country who share their stories about agriculture as well. I hope those help.

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