Op-ed: Chipotle harms farmers, agriculture
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 02:09
Chipotle Mexican Grill is a worldwide restaurant chain known for both its burritos and its message. According to their mission statement, Chipotle “promotes food with integrity, serving the best sustainable food and using ingredients that are raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.” Recently, however, Chipotle has, in this humble farmer’s eye, lost their integrity and is sending the wrong message.
As some of you know, or perhaps do not know, Chipotle is coming out with a new game for smartphones called “Scarecrow.” In this app, the main character is a Scarecrow who can no longer do his duty of scaring off birds from a cornfield. With his old job gone, he must now work in a “factory,” producing processed food made from the “farm.” The point of the game is to work against the “factory farm” to provide an “alternative to the unsustainable processed food” in which his world is run by. To go along with this game and as a message of where it stands on agriculture, Chipotle made an animated video as promotion. (This video is available on Chipotle’s website.)
In the video, there are three features that are not only untrue and damaging to farmers, but they show the misguided ideals that the leadership of Chipotle has bought into. In the beginning of the video, it shows a modern, dark, dirty city filled with factories surrounded by a barren landscape. Nothing is green, no houses are visible and it looks like a desert. This says the company believes farmers are harming their environment and decimating the Earth. No farmer in the world sets out to ruin the land they own. While I admit, some farmers are better stewards of the land than others, let’s look at it this way: If a farmer makes his living by feeding people, and his land is what makes this possible, then why would he not care for it? It is his livelihood, and without it, life as we know it wouldn’t exist.
The second is a rather disturbing scene, showing two robots injecting a chicken with a syringe full of what is assumed to be growth hormone, as after the chicken is injected, it doubles in size. What they are showing, then, is illegal. It is illegal to use growth hormones on poultry in the United States. And even if they were legal, there would be no reason to use them. According to the University of Georgia, they “would have negative growth impacts, negative health effects and would simply not be effective.” Then why, Chipotle, is this shown in your video?
The third is the Scarecrow himself. The Scarecrow is made to represent the average American Farmer. The farmer is no longer portrayed as he is now, a hardworking, honest, family-loving man. He is shown as a factory worker, punching in his card, boxing up prepackaged food and destroying the very environment he loves so much. Is this how Chipotle sees farmers? Better yet, is this how the world sees farmers? I would like to think not.
When it comes to keeping their word, Chipotle is beginning to lose track of honesty and integrity. Just this year, they began to serve beef products made from cattle that received antibiotics. They cited that the high costs of “organic” beef and the low availability of such livestock drove them to this decision. Farmers who raise livestock organically incur huge expenses. This is due to the high cost of raising cattle on grass, which is hard to find and not very efficient. The other costs associated with being certified organic drive many would-be organic farmers away.
So, Chipotle, how are you meeting your mission statement and your goals? Is your video showing “factory farms,” a barren landscape and illegal injections of chickens helping farmers? Is it so wrong that farmers wish to keep their animals alive and well through the use of antibiotics, when it’s the same purpose we use them for? I think it’s time Chipotle started helping farmers instead of hurting them.