Chipotle aired their first national television ad last Sunday during the Grammys. The two-minute stop motion video “Back to the Start” features Willie Nelson’s cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and is aimed to promote sustainable farming practices.
The short shows a farmer as he watches his small farm transform into a tightly packed, antibiotic-ridden, pollution-heavy factory. He eventually decides he’s had enough and tears down the cold and cruel structures to return his operation back to a pastoral and friendly one.
This is part of Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” PR strategy which is quoted as their “commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers.” Currently all of Chipotle’s pork and chicken and 50 percent of its beef are raised organically, meaning vegetarian fed and no antibiotics, and they are striving to raise this percentage for their beef.
Reactions to the ad are largely positive, indicating that most consumers are at least aware of the animal welfare and environmental issues related to factory farms, though the Nebraska Farm Bureau attempts to argue that factory farming is the more humane option.
Chipotle deserves commendation for taking action, forcing consumers to consider these problems when making food choices, and for their commitment to the environment and the well being of our food animals. They are throwing their hat into the ring as a more ethically sound fast food option.
One question to ask is whether organic and pastured meat is actually a sustainable substitute for factory farming. Most people will agree that raising animals for food is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, contributors to global resource depletion. In his book Comfortably Unaware Dr. Richard Oppenlander debunks the myth that pastured animals are the solution to this problem. He cites increased water use and more expansive land needs as two of the reasons why large-scale, free-range food animal production is likely less sustainable than factory farming, especially considering the current demand for meat.
While giving these animals more space minimizes the need for antibiotic use, the larger environmental implications of doing so create more damage than they repair. The ultimate bottom line is to question whether “more humane” practices are actually humane at all. We should be asking ourselves whether the unnecessary exploitation of animals for our pleasure and convenience is justified by the quality of their lives before slaughter.
Chipotle should be applauded for their commitment to animal welfare and environmental sustainability as well as revered for offering delicious vegan options, something difficult to come by in the fast food world. Let's hope this advertisement is just a step toward thrusting the movement to eliminate animal suffering and global depletion into the mainstream spotlight.
Photo credit: Screen capture