Lauren Melella, exclusive to Global Animal
A tremendous amount of buzz is surrounding Chipotle Mexican Grill, the popular fast-food restaurant known for their organically-farmed meat and produce, after their release of The Scarecrow, an artful and inspiring short film depicting the horrors of factory farming.
Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer, explains that the film “should encourage people to think more about the origins of their food, and encourage curiosity towards this issue.” And it certainly has. In less than two weeks, over six million people have viewed the film on YouTube, with many consumers and viewers voicing their opinions and reviews of the film on the Internet. And from what I can tell, the advertisement has provided a number of people with eye-opening information on the necessity of a sustainable farming system and the importance of making humane food choices.
The Scarecrow is the second short film/ad released by Chipotle. Their first short film was titled Back to the Start, and shared a similar anti-factory farming theme to the recently released advertisement. Although it is apparent that both ads resonate with consumers and has certainly established the homegrown Chipotle chain as a model of these “naturally raised” beliefs, the food-giant certainly has its critics.
With both films, it becomes clear where Chipotle stands in terms of providing hungry consumers with a guilt-free fast-food experience. I’ve viewed both films multiple times, and although the message certainly resonates with me emotionally, a question still remains:
Are these humane, healthy practices Chipotle illustrates to its consumers true and authentic, or is the fast-food restaurant just marketing a brilliant version of supermarket pastoral?
“Come with us and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination / by an ad made for you by a giant corporation.”
Popular parody website Funny or Die has recently released their own satirical version of Chipotle’s original film titled Honest Scarecrow (watch below). If the original film’s intent was for us to feel all the feelings, then the parody does its job by allowing us to question their motives. The parody points out one of the biggest controversies surrounding The Scarecrow, which is the fact that when the protagonist makes the decision to harvest his own produce and rebel against the big corporation, he does so with a basketful of veggies.
David Sirota of Salon, a strong believer of Chipotle’s trickery, states, “His solution to the meat-producing factory farming system he hates is not just a meat-based system that slaughters animals in a more humane fashion — but a plant-based system that wholly avoids such slaughter.” The big picture: critics of the film consider the fact that the company is interested in seeming vegetarian without actually being vegetarian. While Chipotle has certainly made an effort to add vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, such as Sofritas, they have no plans to reduce the meat fare at its restaurants.
In terms of humane animal sourcing, on Chipotle’s website, they market on the slogan, “We treat them like animals.” Chipotle firmly believes the best way to treat animals with dignity and respect is to allow them to display their natural tendencies, pointing out that all of their animals are “naturally raised” in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, and never given hormones.
However, this isn’t 100 percent true. If you browse around their site, you’ll notice information stating that they use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones “whenever possible,” and that they source organic and local produce “when practical.” But the fact of the matter is, they simply can’t deliver their promise of “Food With Integrity” at all times.
In reality, there aren’t enough truly free-range chickens, pastured pigs, or GMO-free corn available on any given day to provide for all 900 Chipotle restaurants across the nation. Chipotle knows this, and they seem to be honest in the fact that they aren’t hiding this occasional dilemma.
Another thing they aren’t hiding? Chipotle recently became the first fast-food chain to label the ingredients it uses that contain GMOs. Sadly, 12 out of their 24 ingredients listed on the site are affixed with a red “G,” indicating the presence of GMOs. Not exactly “Food With Integrity,” but at least they’re allowing curious customers the chance to truly know which of their products contain ingredients they may not want to consume.
There is certainly room for improvement in terms of Chipotle’s statement for delivering the very best ingredients raised with respect for animals, the environment, and farmers at all times. However, Chipotle is a rare fast-food company in that they are, for the most part, a better alternative to most fast-food restaurants, honest about their flaws and criticism, and provide a decent stepping stone to those striving to make better food choices.
If you haven’t already, watch their ad in the video below and let us know where you stand.