Chipotle caused a stir during the Grammy Awards a week ago, airing an old ad about sustainable farming. You wouldn’t think an “ag ad” would get this buzzworthy, let alone one that had been in circulation since last summer.
But these are hard times for many farmers so there’s diligent alertness among farm groups about what they perceive as “negative” media-images of farmers.
Totally understandable. Every other segment of the US market does exactly the same, right?
But some high-level responses to this Chipotle ad from notable farm groups have been particularly prickly, even excessive, considering that the ad in question is just a cartoon with no voice over or even any dialogue.
What seems to have these groups up in arms is the ad’s implied “attack” on industrialized, commercial agriculture.
In the ad, we see a hog farmer building up his operation into a cartoon version of a factory farm, where circular pigs are fed drugs from a big silo of what looks like head cold pills, and are then shipped off in semi trucks.
The farmer seems troubled by what his farm has become (why am I feeding giant head cold pills to PIGS?), and in a matter of 20 seconds reassembles his factory farm into a more idyllic operation and starts selling to Chipotle. Yay.
Now, to me, this ad seems so breezy and innocuous, it’s hard to see it as a “hit piece,” but that’s the reaction from ag quarters, as they hunkered down in Twitter, Facebook, and even the New York Times to return fire:
Indiana Farm Bureau’s The Hoosier Farmer: “Chipotle’s “Back to the Start” video is a gross mischaracterization…”
Texas Farm Bureau Talks (Texas Farm Bureau): “Through this video and other methods of advertising, [Chipotle is] making the case that modern production methods are cruel, destructive and unhealthy.”
(Watch the video for yourself and see if this interpretation rings true to you.)
Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Blog: “What the activists who despise factory farms (their term) don’t know or fail to acknowledge is that modern day farm and ranch family operations are being asked to feed a world that will have 2 billion more people in the year 2040, up from the current total of about 7 billion.”
And yesterday, a full week after the Chipotle ad’s appearance on the Grammy Awards…
Blake Hurst, President, Missouri Farm Bureau in a Sunday NYT op-ed (“Don’t Presume to Know a Pig’s Mind”): “Wealthy consumers will reward farmers who are able to pull off the Chipotle ad’s brand of combination farm/tourist attraction and are willing to trade efficient animal husbandry for political correctness.”
Ok, guys. Got it. The ad ticked you off because you feel like it attacked your industry and because you don’t see organic, sustainable, or “local” farming as a viable alternative to your operations.
But here’s what I want to know, and I hope there are some Farm Bureau reps out there willing to talk to me in the comments below.
Don’t the various state chapters of the Farm Bureaus represent any organic, small, sustainable farms? Do you really think of them as your enemy, because it sure seems like it. Here’s a bit more from the Nebraska Farm Bureau piece: “World hunger, lengthy food lines, high food prices and food safety issues would run amok throughout the world if the organic, small, sustainable and local food crowd is successful in implementing its agenda for everyone.”
So…a national restaurant chain “attacks” you so you attack fellow farmers, Nebraska Farm Bureau? Blake Hurst, do you really want to call potential Farm Bureau sustainable farmers inefficient and politically correct? Their farms are “tourist attractions”? Strong stuff. Take a look at Russ Kremer’s story — from your own state, Mr. Hurst. Is he a real farmer or not?
I really don’t understand the hue and cry from these Farm Bureaus. I can see that Chipotle portrays mainstream ag as something that this restaurant wants to avoid. I do. I get that. But really, guys, take a deep cleansing breath and ask yourselves this, as a farming organization:
Don’t organic farming, eating local, sustainable food, and (gasp!) even Chipotle represent opportunity for some of your own farmers?