Chipotle Ad Criticizes Industrial Agriculture But Ignores Worker Rights

If you watched the Grammy Awards Sunday night, you may have seen Chipotle's two-minute-plus animated anti-factory-farming commercial set to Willie Nelson's cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist." The ad features a farmer who, after acknowledging the troubling impacts of large-scale industrial agriculture, decides to go "Back to the Start" and turn animals out to pasture rather than keep them in crowded CAFOs, pumped with antibiotics and polluting the local water supply.

Promoting sustainable farming practices has been a key PR strategy for Chipotle, whose motto is "Food with integrity." As stated on the fast-food chain's website:

Food with integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.

Chipotle states that "whenever possible" it gets its meat from animals that are raised without antibiotics or hormones, and sources local produce "when practical."

Something must be said for Chipotle’s ability to bring national attention to a significant problem in today’s food system via this creative video. However, focusing only on the farmer leaves the story incomplete. Food integrity, according to FIC's definition, implies food production from soil to plate that is consistent with community values.

chipotle_ciw_attActivists calling on Chipotle to sign CIW farmworker agreement, via flickr user NESRIIn addition to animal rights and environmental health, food integrity also means acknowledging an important issue that Chipotle has ignored: the routine exploitation of food workers. Many employees in the food industry lack a voice at all, despite their position to stop a problem before it threatens the food supply. Chipotle's branding suggests a deeper look at where our food comes from, but they are missing the number one go-to source for real transparency: workers in their supply chain, who are all potential whistleblowers.

When given the opportunity to improve the integrity of its suppliers, Chipotle said no. The chain has refused to sign the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Fair Food agreement, which would support better labor conditions for tomato farmworkers in Florida (which accounts for one-third of U.S.-grown tomatoes). Grocery chain Trader Joe’s finally signed on last week after a long campaign effort by CIW, joining Whole Foods, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway.

So while Chipotle's commercial makes a powerful statement about the current state of U.S. agriculture, a major component is still missing. Chipotle's outright rejection of worker rights in its "food with integrity" mantra makes you wonder if the restaurant chain is serious about making concrete changes in our food system or if it's simply just PR.

Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.


Comments (3)

  1. As the worlds population soars farmers strive to meet this demand in hope to turn a small profit. It's only a matter of time before another country controls Americas food supply due to all this nonsense. When another country controls our food supply we'll be at the mercy of them to provide our food, in turn they will own U.S, then they the poverty claim will be true and no will be able to eat.If this is what you want then keep supporting the CIW movements as it will only drive farmers out of business hence demand will exceed supply. Besides blasting farmers with such bad publicity they are also defacing Americas best companies (Publix). Keep messing with Americas food supply and see what happens, we won't have an Army to protect our freedom. This blasphemy has got to stop. On another note the CIW is a one way street, misrepresenting the truth of current agriculture practices in the U.S. The true criminal lies within the workers whom commit crimes, such as tax fraud, identity theft now there annual pay went from $15,000 USD/year to about 25,000 to 30,000/year. Click on this link to read the FOX news investigative story of how illegal/legal immigrants milked us taxpayers of $4,000,000,000 yes that's billion:
  2. It is just PR. You don't buy advertisements like that unless you're seeking to affect PR.

    Ultimately, it will be bad PR, when the chain is found to be buying ingredients that don't measure up to the hype.
  3. I really liked the video and think what Chipotle is going is incredible and bold. However, I would have liked to have seen them explain why the farmer became a factory farmer. In reality, he did not -- and most farmers don't -- choose to become big farms. They are forced to become that way through government subsidies and pressure from big corporations. Then, it is almost impossible to go "back to the start." I think companies like Chipotle are helping them do that, but without them, it is nearly impossible. You can see more at my blog post on HumaneFoodFinder.

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