Chipotle, the fast casual restaurant known for using local and fresh ingredients got in on the lime light during Sunday’s Grammy Awards too. The Mexican chain aired a two minute commercial depicting the harsh realities of food production and food distribution in the United States. Animated scenes illustrated how the once healthy family farm has turned into a manufacturing plant with bloated unhealthy animals processed more like car parts than food.
The commercial is set to the tune of Willie Nelson covering Coldplay’s song, The Scientist. The chorus lyrics state, “I’m going back to the start.” This also narrates the scene when the farmer is fed up with modern practices and begins to return his farm into what it once was; open fields, not cages, with healthy animals, not medicated overgrown products.
While the message is stark, the ad itself isn’t off putting. The soft song mixed with cute, little, animated animals makes you stop and think without grossing you out or scaring you into vegetarianism. Chipotle has always taken a positive stance with their food. The company’s motto is even “food with integrity.” Chipotle’s sales for 2011 were up 11.2% and net income was up 20%.
Other recent ad campaigns regarding health have recently come under fire for scaring and bullying people into eating healthier. A New York Department of Health ad campaign linking large portions to type 2 diabetes and amputation really got people talking (us included.) Another health campaign by Strong4Life in Georgia started major backlash on Twitter. The obesity ads depicted overweight children with slogans like, “WARNING: It’s hard to be a little girl, if you’re not.” These ads were meant to motivate with fear and even a little sadness.
But does Chipotle’s ad fall into this category? Are they seeing increased sales based off the fear we might be eating pork from a listless bloated pig? Maybe. But who are they shaming in their ads? Poor innocent children who weren’t taught to eat correctly and now they’re overweight? Are they picking on handicapped individuals who lost a leg due to poor choices? No, not at all.
Chipotle depicts truthful scenes of how out of hand farming has become. They are educating the masses on how our food goes through a disturbing manufacturing process before it comes to our grocery stores and how it should be disturbing that our government says it’s okay to serve bloated animals as food. If they’re putting any shame out there, they are putting it on the right people. One should be ashamed that they’ve said this type of practice is okay. Even the farmers who want to do it right are really bound by government subsidies and by the prices big companies will pay for food.
Chipotle isn’t just reaping the benefits of this ad. They are putting money where their mouth is. The recording of Willie Nelson’s song was made available for purchase at the iTunes store. All the proceeds go to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. This foundation is dedicated to encouraging sustainable farming, making it possible for farmers to do the right thing and help keep all of America healthy. Download Willie Nelson’s cover of Coldplay’s The Scientist here.