Chipotle Strikes a Nerve with Grammy Commercial

10:30 pm Sunday: I’m so livid right now, I can’t even form a coherent sentence. So I may have to come back and finish this post in the morning.

Monday morning/afternoonish: Ok, I’m back. A good night’s sleep and a few deep breaths has me calmed me down enough that now I can at least form sentences and not scream at stupid Chipotle commercials.
If you haven’t seen the commercial that aired last night during the Grammy’s (I didn’t watch the Grammy’s but once I saw my Facebook and Twitter blowing up, I went to YouTube and watched the disaster), please do so now, so that you’re aware of what I’m talking about.

I can’t even begin to explain everything that is wrong with this commercial, but I’ll try:

1. Livestock are not raised indoors because farmers are lazy. Quite the opposite actually. As I type this, there is snow on the ground and it’s 27 degrees in Kansas and spitting sleet oh and don’t forget it’s Kansas so it’s always windy. If I was a dairy cow or a pig, I’d wanna be indoors and out of the snow and wind.

2. Supporting local farmers is a great endeavor however, there is not always a year-round farmers market that has every grocery item from A-Z in every small town. Without Hyvee, Dillons and yes, the dastardly Wal-Mart, my little family would starve. Transporting food from where it was grown to where it is sold is not evil or wrong. It’s called infrastructure and we should be very thankful we have it. Countries in Africa don’t have very good infrastructure and therefore have a lot of food shortages and hunger problems.

3. Did you know there is 77 times more hormones (estrogen) in ONE EGG than in a 100 gram portion of implanted beef? I didn’t make that up, it’s the facts. Antibiotics are used during stressful times in an animal life when the immune system is compromised and when they need to be treated for sickness. Antibiotics on farms are not used irresponsibly or willi-nilli.

4. Farmers and ranchers aren’t running factories. To say otherwise is absurd. Producers check their livestock on a daily basis and are always striving to provide the utmost care possible so that the quality of life for their livestock is as best as can be.

Also, did you know that even though Chipotle claims to use local, certified organic products they quite often can’t find enough supply to meet their demand and end up using conventionally produced products? They admit it:

“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.” — taken from Chipotle’s annual report.

Just to clear something up: I have no problem with organic or naturally produced food products. I am very proud to live in a country where I can buy whatever type of food I want: organic, natural, conventional, grass-fed, grain-fed, etc. However, I can’t afford those products and quite frankly I know there isn’t a difference between them and their conventionally produced contemporaries. However, I don’t condemn those farmers who make a living in a way that is different to everyone else. If consumers want to pay higher prices for organic and natural, well then props to those producers who can provide it. All I’m saying is that one isn’t better than the other and we shouldn’t gang up on each other. We can all agree that Chipotle is definitely not portraying an accurate picture of food production and are also not using the products of which they’re so proud to endorse. Honesty goes a long ways with Buzzard.

I haven’t eaten Chipotle in five years. Seriously. Mostly because of their marketing schemes but also partly because I didn’t really like the food anyway. I don’t mean to punish producers who supply Chipotle with food but I just can’t support a company that trounces on conventional agriculture so inappropriately and inaccurately. My pride and values won’t let me.

There are other great commentaries on this commercial making their rounds on the internet – I encourage you to check them out!

Food Integrity Starts with Marketing Integrity – Daren Williams, NCBA
Chipotle, Your Grammy Commercial Still Doesn’t Change My Mind – Crystal Young
Was Chipotle’s Ad Eloquent or Ignorant? – Peggy Lowe, Harvest Public Media

Oh and let’s not forget about Willie Nelson. Shame, shame on you for ruining Coldplay’s song “Back to the Start” and for continuing to not be a friend of conventional agriculture.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


16 responses to “Chipotle Strikes a Nerve with Grammy Commercial”

  1. Well said Brandi!

  2. It's advertising. All advertising is spin. Happens on both sides. I do remember on one of the national morning news shows (I forget which network) a fellow from conventional ag doing a segment which ended in the declaration that organic agriculture uses manure for fertilizer, which puts the 'Ick' in Organic. What he was saying in a round about way was "Don't eat organic because they grow the produce with shit. Ours is nice and clean.".

    This is Chipotle's way of attempting to pull market share away from their competitors. Nothing more.

  3. I find it no different than McDonald's airing commercials to make them seem "farm to fork." But that dead horse has been beaten enough. To each their own.

  4. Thanks Shelby!

    Joanne – Like I said, I don't condone any one sector of ag condeming another sector. That goes for conventional producers trouncing organic/natural. However, and this is for NickLev too, Chipotle was portraying that they only use organic/natural products because other types of farming are bad. This, as they clearly state, is not true since they are unable to find/source the amount of meat they need that is produced organically and that is also cheap enough. Marketing spins are fine, but practice what you preach.

    Lastly, Nick, McDonald's never claims to use only organic or only conventional. They never said that they use local only, etc. They were just giving people a first hand look at some of their producers. That isn't what Chipotle was doing.

    Thanks for reading and commenting ya'll!

  5. Point #4 is a falsehood. says a factory is "any place producing a uniform product, without concern for individuality." Alternatively, "a building or group of buildings with facilities for the manufacture of goods." Both of these definitions fit the modern hog "farm" to a T. The "goods" in the case of conventional farming are hogs, cattle and chickens. But, there is another way! With sustainable/ethical agriculture farmers can be farmers instead of factory workers. Animals can be animals instead of protein machines. And consumers can feel good about where their food comes from.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I think if you read your quote from their page again you will realize that they admit nothing other than it is difficult to pursue food with integrity…not that they use from the mainstream.

  7. Elliot – Number four is most definitely not false. Factory implies that animals are treated with no regard to individuality, which is most definitely not true. Livestock are cared for on an individual basis, especially when it comes to their health status. In feedlots, cowboys ride the pens every day to check for sick cattle which are treated individually. I have personally check hog barns for individual sick piglets and treated them if they have a pulmonary issue.

    I have issue with your term sustainable/ethical — conventional farming isn't unethical by any means. The same high quality care that is afforded to animals on organic farms is also given to animals on conventional farms. Additionally, just because animals are raised organically or naturally doesn't mean they're treated better than their conventionally raised contemporaries. Organic/natural only replies to the type of diets and technologies utilized, not the wellbeing of the animal.

    Anonymous – read the last sentence again. "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.” — Read: because natural and organic products are so much more expensive, there is a decrease in demand for those products so our suppliers have decided not to use those sources.

    As always, thanks for the comments and civil conversation.

    1. First, I believe you absolutely do care about the care of animals.

      I don't think that conventional farmers disregard caring for individual animals. When I mention the idea of "without concern for individuality" I am not referring to individual care given by farmers or veterinary staff. I'm referring to something else that's difficult to explain in a short response. What I'm referring to might be better represented with an example:

      Cattle are genetically designed to eat grass. On the modern CAFO, they receive mostly corn and soybeans. This seems like an insult to individuality to me.

      Also, the gestation crate seems like an insult to individuality to me. Most Americans find the use of gestation crates inhumane. That's why McDonald's just made their announcement to make their suppliers stop using them by 2017.

      Conventional farming certainly can be unethical and I think the Humane Society of America (I'm not a PETA fan) has done a good job of documenting this as fact. And I don't like the term "organic" which is why I didn't use it. Because you're right, it's only a set of rules that the USDA imposes and if you follow them you get the stamp of approval. Sustainable farming is about more than getting your organic stamp.

      I'm enjoying debating the issues. I don't normally venture out into the blogosphere, but I'm liking it.

    2. Anonymous Avatar

      That is not what the quote says and I believe if you read it again you could also interpret the same statement to mean otherwise because it never says that OUR suppliers have decided not to use them. It is instead saying…That because their standards are higher it takes a longer time for them to find suppliers that meet their standard because "many large suppliers have not found it economical to pursue business in this area.”

  8. I think that the term "Factory Farm" is somewhat of a misnomer. It's used by people (both farmers and the nonfarming public alike) to paint one type of livestock husbandry in a poor light.

    Regardless whether you raise animals indoors or outdoors, at a high stocking rate or a low stocking rate you're still raising animals for one purpose – food production. Those animals are protein factories. We bring them into the world for the specific purpose of taking them out so that we can enjoy their flesh (and their hide, fur, feathers, cartaleage, sinew, fats, etc. that we can find an extraction/harvest method and use for).

    In that, all of us, organic, conventional and the many alternative husbandry practitioners out there, we are all the same in that we really are using those animals to produce a product. In that sense, we are all "Factory" farmers.

    I don't know about anyone else, but while I endevour to make the animals' lives as comfortable as possible, I'm really only using them to produce meat. That's the bottom line. And I don't know of any organic or alternative farm that's any different. We're just open air factories.

    I know that this will piss off a lot of my collegues in the alternative production livestock industries, but it's the truth.

    1. It's fine if you don't like the term factory farm. Then I guess you would have to refer to them as CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) because that's the official government term given to what I call "factory farms."

      But I stand firm in calling them factories. Would I call a small/medium open-air non-confinement hog farm a factory? Absolutely not. The difference is that the modern livestock industry has created a mechanized assembly-line version of livestock production. Hence, the term factory farming. There's really no denying this.

      Here's an example. Would you consider a skilled carpenter who works out of a small shop creating custom made chairs and tables a factory system? No. But would you call it a factory if we started talking about how Ikea produces and distributes it's furniture? Yes.

  9. I find it interesting that people have such negative opinions with hormones and use in production agriculture. However these very same people have no problem with birth control or other medicines that rely on the use of hormones. Just a thought.

    Oh and have you seen the Peta Commercial? It’s a dandy too…

  10. Leann – thanks for the comment and I actually just finished watching it! That is so crazy and way over the line. I hate false advertising!

    Joanne, I still don't like the word factory but you are essentially right. But Elliot (see previous comments) maintaining that animals aren't afforded individualistic care is absurd.

    Thanks for commenting!

  11. Anonymous – OUR suppliers indicates to me, and most of the world, that the companies that supply their restaurants aren't sourcing what they say they are from who they are.

    1. Anonymous Avatar never says OUR in the quote when referring to the big supplies that don't find it practical. You may very well be right that they do…but the quote is hardly evidence of that.