Chipotle takes on Big Food with animated Scarecrow

chipotle big food scarecrow advertisementDo you remember the 2011 advertisement released from Chipotle restaurants? The one with Willy Nelson singing about progress and science and where Chipotle urged us to go Back to the Start. I wrote a few comments about the controversial campaign on this blog. The company has had a building campaign based on concepts like Food with Integrity and asking us to Cultivate a Better World. As Daren Williams pointed out, Chipotle’s marketing campaigns don’t come with much integrity.

This time, they’re at it again. Chipotle released a video yesterday featuring a Scarecrow working for Crow Foods which represents Big Food in this country. The 3 minute video relies heavily on the depiction that modern food production is an industrial factory process. There are cows and chickens in confinement, being pumped with what is assumed to be antibiotics and hormones. Things which Chipotle denounces in food production.

I’m not linking to the video.

chipotle scarecrow film beef advertisement big food

The Center for Consumer Freedom posted some good comments on the video that I wanted to share:

Back to the meat of the matter (forgive the pun). Chipotle takes issue with modern livestock farms and the use of antibiotics, hormones and animal housing. Relying on a cartoon underscores, however, that this is a marketing strategy, not a means to present a realistic picture of agriculture. Take the use of antibiotics. Chipotle says it won’t buy from farms that use antibiotics to raise chicken. So what’s a farmer to do if one of his birds gets sick? Perhaps it’s an apt time to point out that Chipotle notes in an annual report, “Herd losses can also be greater when animals are not treated with antibiotics and hormones.”

In fact, while Chipotle brands its fare “food with integrity,” that label seems to come with some fine print. Chipotle on the one hand bashes farms that use antibiotics, yet, on the other, is all too happy to sell meat that was raised with the use of antibiotics if there’s a supply shortage.

There’s a larger agriculture narrative developed by city-dwellers over the years who have ideological problems with modern food technology and production. Chipotle is taking advantage of it as much as possible to make money. It’s important to remember that, as one in the ag community puts it, marketing is not reality. There are plenty of videos—not cartoons—that show modern farms in a straightforward manner (that is, without the horror-movie soundtrack and editing of an animal-rights video).

Consumer Freedom also points out that Chipotle’s tortillas and chips come from the rather large Don Pancho Authentic Mexican Foods, Inc. Not quite what their marketing depicts. Read more thoughts on their website.

This is a well-made animated short-film. Props to the marketing folks who created it. But the message is not realistic nor does it paint an accurate image of modern agriculture.

chipotle scarecrow film chicken big food commercialChipotle’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Crumpacker, says that the restaurant chain hopes to encourage consumers to learn more about where our food comes from and learn about the differences of processed and real foods.

Mr. Crumpacker, if you really wanted to share how our food is grown, there is plenty of real footage from real farms across the country available online. Plenty of farmers have many videos on their YouTube Pages (which I have a list of on this blog), and continually share their real stories via blogs (which I also have a list of on this blog). No animation needed.


  1. I read your blog post yesterday and wanted to explore it further today. I watched the video just to see what it was all about and I am appalled! And even worse, I open up my email this morning the first topic on the “Today’s News” email I get from LinkedIn is an article from AdWeek praising their commercial saying… “Ad of the Day: Chipotle Makes Magic Yet Again With Fiona Apple and a Dark Animated Film” – I couldn’t believe it! Here’s the link if you’d like to read it for yourself..! but it will get you fired up for sure – especially in the behind the scenes video when Chipotle CEO says this film is a “story to better explain to people where their food comes from.” I think he needs to rehe video is everything but the truth. I may have to write a blog post about this myself.

  2. If chickens are raised correctly, on pasture in moveable shelters with a diet of organic grains, grass and bugs, they will never get sick and therefore won’t need antibiotics.

    If cows are raised correctly and moved daily within electric fencing using intensive management grazing and never eat grain, they won’t get sick and therefore won’t need antibiotics.

    Modern farming IS an industrial factory process. Big Ag packs far too many animals in confined spaces and feeds antibiotics as a preventive measure directly related to raising too many animals in deplorable conditions.

    That is a fact.

    1. Those are great options for farmers who want to pursue it and have the resources to do so and market it. But pasture raised does not equate to animals not getting sick or eliminating antibiotic use. Sorry, it just doesn’t. Just like Chipotle tries to paint the image that big equates bad when it comes to food production. That’s not the truth and it doesn’t take much experience to figure out that statements like these should not be painted with large brush strokes.

    2. You’re right, it is an industrial process but it has to be in order to keep up with feeding people. We can’t feed a world population of over 7 Billion with small farms, we just can’t. And not every farm and ranch is located in an area where lush pature and room to roam are available for the farm animals. In my area, I’ve seen lots of farm land sold to development; farmers and ranchers are having to make more food with less land. Furthermore, I believe 99% of our nation’s farmers and ranchers take good care of their animals no matter whether they are organic, conventional or what have you. You can’t mistreat an animal when your paycheck depends on it’s health!

    3. You are absolutley incorrect. Cattle need to be fed grain to gain. If all they are fed is grass there meat is very tough and unappealing. I have livestock and cattle that are fed in a feedlot and they are fine. They eat corn and hay but mostly corn. Your ideas of how things are supposed to be raised are not relavant with todays modern practices. There are still farms how put cattle on pasture but that is not the only thing they consume. It is mostly cows who milk or beef cows who will give birth. Steers are not. They are all fed in a feedlot.

      1. Professional, thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, this subject isn’t an absolute. Cattle can be pasture finished with intensive management and high quality forages. True, many do receive a grain/by-product supplement for increased energy and grass-finished cattle generally do not have the same palatability as conventionally finished, but grass-finished does exist.

    4. I raise grass fed cattle that are rotationally grazed. In the winter they are fed hay. I consider myself lucky this summer because so far I have only had a couple of cases of pinkeye. Normally in our area pinkeye infects several cows throughout the summer. It is caused by several factors including flies and irritation from tall grasses.

      If you have never seen an untreated pinkeye case, it is an appalling sight. I get my cattle up, give them vaccinations(medicine), and salves on their eyes. I treat my cattle like I would treat myself if I had pinkeye.

      This is just one of many diseases that happens naturally in cattle. It is just part of nature. I vaccinate my cattle to ensure that they remain healthy. I think that is far more humane than letting diseases, infections, sicknesses, and sufferings run rampant in my herd.

      That is how farmers really treat their animals. Thank You for your time.

    5. Your facts are incorrect. Just like people get sick, animals get sick too. Just a small example would be beef animals raised on pasture being challenged with environmental stressors… Hot days, rainy days, and most importantly muggy days. This kind of weather puts stress on these animals making them more suseptible to being challenged with viruses: parainfluenza, bovine herpes, BRSV etc (summed up by being called bovine respiratory disease complex) which spread like the common cold, this changes their normal mucociliary apparatus in their throat, and their normal flora (bacteria) in their throat can then proliferate and spread into their lungs causing pneumonia… They then need antibiotics to treat it. I could go on and on. Animals get sick.

  3. I feel divided about this. The Center for Consumer Freedom is nothing but a lobbying front, and some of their campaigns are reprehensible. However, I do understand that farmers would be horrified by Chipotle’s video and I know that, rather than CCF is the point here.
    Everyone seems to have some kind of stake in this and is madly marketing from their own perspective. However, an unfair fight or unfair competition (like the video, from what you’re saying, Ryan), is well, unfair. It’s too bad it doesn’t have a disclaimer that it doesn’t depict every single farming situation, but with the power of video, that wouldn’t help anyway.
    I like Chipotle’s interest in providing better food than, say McDonalds, but they’re in this for money too. But the means doesn’t always justify the end, and I’m sorry that farmers, like you, Ryan, and many others, keep getting bashed like that.
    The sad fact is, this is a marketing campaign by Chipotle and we Americans buy into marketing campaigns without question — be it for food, cars, lifestyle, or whatever. Thus the current obsession with staying youthful and being thin. 🙁

    1. Thanks Kay. And I agree. Like many in my generation, I love to seek out fresh tasting foods and shy away from the heavily processed foods when I can. But it’s not all fun and games to see hits like this continue.

      Franchise money like Chipotle (which is pretty big) still speaks louder than individual farmers who are trying to pipe up in the conversation. And that’s sad.

  4. Ryan, there is certainly money at play here. Chipotle is throwing their money and powerful marketing behind an idea of farming that differs from yours. I hear both messages, but it comes down to this for me: we Americans have such an appetite for meat that we are careless about how it is farmed.

    The Center for Consumer Freedom is no more reputable than Chipotle in this argument and so it comes down to which one do I feel more akin to. In my case, it’s Chipotle. Their argument resonates with me.

    As for showing how factory farming works, I’m suspicious there due to the Ag-Gag laws that have been passed. If the big meat factories are secure in what they do, they should be able to stand up to investigative reporting on their practices. My guess is that a factory farm’s operations filmed and shown to my daughter would turn her off to meat forever. I’ve seen those films, without scary soundtracks, and that’s half the reason I’ve cut most meat from my diet.

    I do still purchase and consume some meat, but I find out where it was raised and how. It takes some extra work, and that’s another reason I don’t eat it very often. That work is worth it and cutting down on my consumption of meat has made me healthier.

    Finally, I don’t think you have to worry about how big Chipotle’s marketing budget is. Tyson, and Cargill alone sold $100 billion in 2011. My guess is that they’re working furiously to out market folks like Chipotle.

    1. Brian,
      You’ve seen these films? Have you visited a “factory farm”? What constitutes a factory farm? There’s no clear definition. I’m glad you’ve taken the time to find out how your meat is raised, that’s more than what a lot of people can say. However, you’re painting a whole industry badly because you’ve seen some films??? That astounds me. And since when is any investigative reporting without bias any more? Go to a large farm and find out for yourself. Most farmers (if you get to know them first) will gladly show you their operation. The only exception is may be hog farmers since there are some diseases that get inadvertently brought in by visitors.

      Do you know that 94% of all farms in this country are family owned? You’re average beef operation only has 40 cow/calf pairs! That means a lot of our beef comes from small operations! I don’t have stats on chicken or pork.

      When a company like Chipotle or Panera paints such a picture of modern Ag it affects all of us in Ag., the small farms all the way up to the big farms. The marketing on our fears and misconceptions is reprehensible in my eyes. The dishonesty portrayed hurts all farms not just “factory farms”.

    2. Also, most “Ag-Gag” laws do not prohibit the filming/reporting of animal cruelty, but instead require that incidents be reported and video evidence be turned over to police within a short window (24-48 hours, in most cases). The point is not to prevent abuse from being reported, but to report it quickly so that recording/reporting abuse benefits the animals instead of providing media “fuel” for animal rights groups that want to see the end of all animal agriculture.

    3. Thank you for taking the time to track down products that you can buy directly from farmers. It takes a lot of investment and hard work for a farmer to find a way to sell directly to consumers, so it really makes a difference when a consumer will go to some inconvenience to purchase from them.

      I am on the fence about ag-gag laws, but for me personally with a tiny farm (just getting started) and a mainly pasture-based system, I would still be reluctant to let someone I didn’t know well onto my farm with a camera. It’s not because I have something to hide, but more because I know some radical groups exist that care nothing about honesty and could conceivably twist something that happened on my farm that was good into looking like something bad.

      For example, I was at the State Fair a few years back and one of the 4-Hers was giving his cow a bolus (pill) in the middle of the barn for all the public to see. Although I personally don’t know what was in the bolus, common things are energy supplements, calcium supplements, etc. I am not aware of any antibiotics or hormones that come in that form (an injection is the most common forms of those things). I heard a passerby turn and say to her friend “Poor cow, they are shoving hormones down it’s throat.” I walked over to her and her friend and let her know that the cow was most likely not feeling well and was getting medicine for that. I then went to the 4-Her and told him what the passerby had said, and asked him to please go to a non-public place to treat his animal next time so we could avoid misunderstandings in the future. I am not trying to hide something, and if I was having a conversation with a group of people at the fair I would certainly be willing to let them see me give a cow a bolus. However, without any explanation of what they were seeing, especially if they had preconceived negative notions of what the might see, a consumer could get a very wrong idea. Now imagine if that showed up in a radical animal rights’ group’s film, with their messaging (however false) on it? Really not a good mix.

  5. I find the new Chipotle spot incredibly disheartening and discouraging. Not only does it perpetuate the mis-perceptions that many people have about agriculture, it promotes a false sense of reality in a catchy kind of way that many folks will remember. With so many folks so far removed from a REAL farm, this kind of thing colors their thinking…in some cases causing them to believe complete fabrications with little or no research into the truth.

    This kind of advertising is hurtful and wrong…not just to farmers, but to consumers as well.

    I talk to food consumers on a regular basis and many of them are truly frightened of food…and suspicious of the very people who work so hard to produce it. The things that frighten these folks are never something that they have seen or experienced first-hand….no, they’re basing the decisions concerning their food choices, their health and well-being (and that of their children) on stuff like the Chipotle spot and Panera bread advertising and stuff they’ve seen from extremist groups. And, unfortunately, consumers are unaware of the fact that the “information” they have may or may not be TRUE and that their fears are being capitalized upon in hopes of another sale…

    There is no need to bash farmers of any type, particularly not when it’s just to make a sale.

    We are all dependent upon Agriculture in so many ways. It would be nice if everyone could just “play nice” for a change and stopped with all the fear-mongering!

  6. Someone please answer this question for me. If making sure your animals, cows, steers, chickens etc. are safe and free from disease by medicating and using modern treatment practices. Then why are the so called organic and antibiotic free choices for meat 50-60% more expensive as other farm raised choices. This type of pricing even goes as far as apples and oranges.

    1. Eddie,
      This isn’t an easy answer. Several parts to this answer:
      1. If they are using organic feed, then that’s much more expensive to produce/buy.
      2. Labor costs in organic and ABF meat are very high because of the management practices that are needed to monitor especially pig and chicken operations. Beef is less intensive, but a watchful eye is needed.
      3. Mortality rates may be higher since medications and antibiotics are not used, so less meat is available.
      4. If chickens are truly free range, then predation would be a huge issue.
      5. Because they can… it’s a marketing ploy. You have to remember that these people are out to make money and the value placed on organic and ABF meat is deemed higher than conventional because of actual and perceived costs. Perception is huge! People will pay more because of the perception that’s been portrayed. People just don’t understand the differences in farming practices and automatically assume organic and ABF meat is just better, when it’s the same.

      My personal choice is to buy local or raise it myself.. I know whom I’m buying it from and it does taste better, generally. Same with my produce. I grow my own or buy in season from within state. Taste is just fresher, especially tomatoes and berries.

      Hope that helps.

  7. Dear Mr. Goodman,

    It is unwise not to link to the video in today’s social media. I understand the urge not to do so, but by following that urge you are giving the video more weight than it deserves. It’s so expected that there will be a link to what you are critiquing, that you draw more attention to the video by not having the link. If the video’s message does not stand up to close examination, and it does not, then you should be willing to provide the link.

    I’m the son, son-in-law, brother and brother-in-law of farmers. I’ve worked with social media since it’s been invented.

    Just friendly advice to help you be more effective. Provide the link.

    Keep up the good work with agricultureproud.

  8. The operative words here are BIG FOOD. Like BIg Government,Big Brother.
    Get the picture the American public is forming?
    Small farmers and producers are the salt of the earth and the main stay of our Nation.
    I am afraid Corporate and Foreign owned producers are squeezing them out.Rhat is the problem I have with some of the production of our food.

  9. Chipotle thinks they are doing such a great job educating consumers on where their food comes from when really they are only feeding them more inaccurate information. We have “factory farms” for a reason. Our population, both within the U.S., and globally is astounding and it only continues to rise daily. How are we suppose to continue to feed the world and produce if we can’t have some sort of process for which we can efficiently produce? If a consumer chooses to buy and consume organic great for them! That is their choice. However, for those of us who are on a tight budget that isn’t practical, it costs too much. Also, I have no problem purchasing “factory farmed” meat. It fits my budget and I’ve eaten it my whole life. There is nothing wrong with the consumption of these products.

  10. Ryan,

    As always, I appreciate your insightful and intelligent argument. The idea that “Big Ag” or “factory farms” are in control of our food industry is simply false. I hope that the agvocacy movement, lead by people like you, can continue to share the positive and TRUE messages of modern agriculture. Family farmers are producing our food, and the practices of livestock production are constantly under review by the industry to ensure they are adhering to strict animal welfare and safety measures. I agree with you in not wanting to give the ad more attention than it has already received, but I hope we in agriculture can watch this and see what kind of marketing is dominating the conversation, and learn from it. Thanks for the post!

  11. To me, this video was a slap across the face to farmer’s. Even though there are many people who know that not every farm is like the one depicted in the video, there are so many more that don’t know this fact. So the people that don’t know associate farmers and farming practices with what they saw in the video. This means Chipotle just labeled farmers and farming operations as evil things that torture animals by locking them up, injecting them full of various chemicals, and doing almost anything possible to the animals to make another dollar, and that is not what farming is.

    I also find it interesting that this video is geared more towards advertising Chipotle’s app than the restaurant itself. I highly doubt that this was a cheap video to make, and they only mention Chipotle once at the very end of the video. What do you think?

  12. I agree with your blog and where you are coming from on this issue. What I find is sad is that this ad is only for their game app yet they are sending out the wrong message about agriculture through it while targeting children through the game. You don’t really understand what it’s for till the small blurb for the app at the end of the video. Also the only indicator relating it to Chipotle is the small pepper the scarecrow picks towards the end. He then uses no meat and only the peppers to make his food, so are they trying to promote a vegetarian lifestyle too? It is a little unclear to me. Although whoever did design the video does deserve props for making a heart string pulling video that is able to relay the message that Chipotle wants people to hear. If I lived away from the farm and didn’t know any better, then I would probably fall into the trap and be against farming as well. However, the video is not factual based. I mean they can’t even get where cows are really milked (udders underneath) put into the video or the fact that chickens do not even use growth additives. Their information they provided to the public is faulty and untrue. They even related to this in the song that was playing during the video when the lady sang, “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination. We’ll begin with a spin in a world of my creation”. It is all imaginative, not true. That is also why it is portrayed in cartoon form, because there are no real images to back up the story they want to tell. There are plenty of raw agriculture videos for people to take a look at to see how farms really operate. I hope to help spread the true meaning behind agriculture. I hope people research and self-educate on what really takes place on farms today. However, I understand not everyone takes the time to do so, therefore, it is up to us to help get the message out. What Chipotle did was wrong in my mind and I hope the real agriculture message will get out eventually to those who have not heard. After all a farmer’s pay check is based on the livestock and other products they may produce, so why would they not want to give them the best health and life possible?

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