With the release of an animated short film promoting their new iPad app, Tex-Mex restaurant chain Chipotle becomes the latest member of the food service industry to create a public relations dustup with America’s farmers and ranchers.
Chipotle’s film, titled “The Scarecrow,” follows a conflicted cartoon scarecrow through a deceptively conceptualized food factory where growth-inducing chemicals are injected into chickens and distraught cows are locked in futuristic milking machines. The scarecrow then opens a home-grown food stand using produce from his own garden.
In Chipotle’s attempt to distance themselves from their competitors, they are leading consumers down a path of confusion. But worst of all, they have launched what can only be seen as a direct assault on animal agriculture, borrowing messaging concepts from animal rights extremists to make their point. There’s even a swipe at “Farmers Feeding the World” messaging used by agricultural advocacy groups. In fact, that’s exactly what American farmers are doing, and they will be called on to increase their output as the world’s population continues to grow.
Agriculture advocates from across the country are weighing in, voicing their displeasure with the film. David Hayden, a widely-known ag blogger, rebuked Chipotle in a recent post, saying, “Your latest video just slapped farmers and ranchers across the face.”
Chipotle is a very popular restaurant, with a strong customer base in urban and suburban communities. It seems reasonable to assume that the bulk of Chipotle’s customers are several generations removed from life on the farm in rural areas, and as a result, their only impression of modern food production comes from misleading media just like this film. As most of us know, a visit to an American farm, today, would leave most consumers with a vastly different perspective than the one Chipotle has elected to portray.
“Food With Integrity.” That’s Chipotle’s slogan. We fail to see how demonizing the hardworking farmers and ranchers who produce safe, affordable food can fall under the category of “integrity.” Chipotle’s scarecrow ad is nothing but a strawman argument, in which they’ve put forth their own distorted version of reality, attacking modern food production to scare customers straight into their restaurants.
America’s farmers and ranchers feed their families and ours with the fruits of their labor and they deserve much better than this.