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The Blue & Gray Press | October 17, 2017

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Chipotle bites the hand that feed them

Chipotle bites the hand that feed them

By KRISTEN LAWRENCE

Chipotle has made a name for itself in the realm of fast food.

With its generous portion sizes and a constantly running ad campaign touting natural, organic ingredients it’s no surprise that Chipotle is making waves amongst foodies of all ages. Food with integrity is a big pull with consumers and Chipotle has made an incredible effort to tailor and advertise themselves as a health and animal-conscious company. However, all of this comes at the expense of farmers and ranchers who are taking the fall.

In a CNN article Ryan Goodman argues that Chipotle is pouring money into advertisements that mask their own deficiencies and shortcomings by heaping blame on the farmers and ranchers that provide the product they use in-store.

Goodman says that Chipotle’s marketing relies on “stirring up emotion with imagery that paints a bleak picture of a futuristic food system that is factory-like” as well as “systemic problems with nefarious and imagined solutions.”

Goodman’s main scruple is Chipotle’s usage of the fictional “PetroPellet” in their latest ad campaign set to air exclusively on Hulu. “PetroPellet” is a fictitious petroleum product capable of exploding cows, which Goodman argues is meant to cast farmers and ranchers in a negative light as the heartless villains only out to earn money.

Goodman says that these continued attacks are winning over fans with information that is “much less than accurate of our modern food growers.” This all calls into question whether Chipotle is making the most advantageous move for all parties involved, or whether it is sacrificing its relationship with their food providers in exchange for consumer support.

To what extent is Chipotle free to fling these accusations, can they stand guilt-free behind their claims of providing only the best quality food to their customers?

As noble as Chipotle’s goals are, their methods of obtaining them seem backwards. Diverting any criticism from the company onto its providers is an excellent way for Chipotle to shoot itself in the foot.

Their ability to follow up on those promises of hormone-free meat is dependent on maintaining a good relationship with the very same people they are now throwing under the bus.

Chipotle’s attacks on Big Agriculture does, in fact, foster questions of whether their integrity is intact, or whether their more than $1 million in advertising is only a way for them to cover up the company’s own deficiencies by pointing out faults in others. That sort of finger-pointing, name-calling tactic does not exactly mesh with its slogan “Food with Integrity.”

Certainly there remain problems with the farming and ranching communities that should not be brushed away, just as there are still problems within the restaurant and fast food business that can, and should, be improved upon.

However, there are better ways for food establishments like Chipotle to go about its business, ways that do not involve making scapegoats out of other participants in the food industry.

As Goodman writes, “let the conversation come from both sides of the plate.” Practice what you preach, ensure you are providing those delicious burritos with the sort of integrity your customers have come to expect.