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