Fast Food Chain Takes Aim At Factory Farming

Gestation crates are thought to be the most inhumane factory farming act. Photo Credit:

Megan Cross, Global Animal

When I first saw the short animated film from restaurant chain Chipotle, I thought it was a trailer for a new documentary based on the simple sadness of factory farming, not unlike Forks Over Knives and Food, Inc. The short film titled Back to the Start depicts a small hog farmer who has succumbed to large-scale farming as Willie Nelson sings Coldplay’s forlorn song “The Scientist.” Unhappy with treatment of his animals the farmer decides to go “back to the start” and break free from commercial farming. Chipotle’s ad resurfaced during this year’s Grammy Awards and has received a lot of attention.

The label and proceeds of the ad benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, whose mission is to support sustainable, family farms and culinary education. Blake Hurst, a former hog farmer and President of the Missouri Farm Bureau is worried that Chipotle’s ad will harm farmers. In his New York Times op-ed piece, Don’t Presume To Know A Pig’s Mind, he claims that “Wealthy consumers will reward farmers who are able to pull off the Chipotle ad’s brand of combination farm/tourist attraction and are willing to trade efficient animal husbandry for political correctness.”  No doubt commercial farming is “efficient,” but it is also cruel, dangerous, and unhealthy.

Hurst fails to mention the antibiotics used in animal farming and the pollution it produces. Researchers estimate that up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to farm animals in order aid growth or make up for overcrowding and foul living conditions. As for pollution, feedlots produce more greenhouse gasses than cars. According to Worldwatch’s 2009 study, feedlots are responsible for 51% of human-based pollution worldwide. 

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Needless to say the ad has made a huge impact on the pork industry. The day after the commercial aired on television McDonalds, who surprisingly only consumes 1% of pork in the US, vowed to end the use of gestation crates. Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO), who supplies food to corporations and universities, uses 3 million pounds of pork annually. BAMCO plans to completely phase out the use of these crates by 2017. 

This clearly isn’t an end to factory farming. For pigs gestation crates are just the beginning. We still have to fight against teeth cutting, tale cutting, castration among so many other monstrosities (and that’s just for pigs.) Although my idea of a better world is a meatless one, we have to admit that these corporations are at least making a step in the right direction. We must also rethink the way we eat, thus changing the way we farm and improving the way we treat animals.