Digging Deeper


Was Chipotle's ad 'eloquent' or ignorant?

You first hear the tweet of a bird, the dark screen lightens up and a pastoral scene passes by that looks like it was built by Fisher Price.

Mr. Farmer and Mrs. Farmer, who is holding Baby Farmer, gazes on a pink cylindrical pig. A guitar starts to play and our story takes off, with the pig reproducing more little pink ones, buildings appearing to house the animals and Willie Nelson beginning to sing. By the time the pigs are manufactured into little pink boxes, I was involved…and wincing.

Did you see the Chipotle commercial last night during the Grammys? For the first time, the ad, set to a Coldplay tune called “The Scientist,” aired during a commercial broadcast. It has been on YouTube and in movie theaters since last summer – and has been creating lots of negative buzz among some ag advocates.

As Willie sings about “questions of science, science and progress,” a story unfolds about how Mr. Farmer went from a tiny operation to factory farming and back again. It’s called “Back to the Start,” an obvious message from Chipotle, the Denver-based fast-food burrito joint that has been advocating for sustainable farming for about ten years.

“Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be so hard,” Willie sings at the climax. “I’m going back to the start.”

The New York Times wrote about the ad last week, reporting that proceeds from downloads of the song at the commercial’s end will go to the Chipotle Cultivate Fund, which encourages family farming and sustainable methods. Time critic James Poniewozik gave the ad a good review today, calling it “pretty remarkable to see such an eloquent-without-being-strident argument questioning the way our food system is set up being made, in prime time, by a big fast-food (or “fast casual”) company.”

But the commercial created outrage in farm country, and many on Chipotle’s Facebook page vowed they would never eat there again. Rob Robertson of Nebraska Farm Bureau blasted the ad.

Having an agenda and arguing against today’s modern farm practices is a prescription for worldwide hunger.

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.

I am confident our farmers and ranchers can do this because of more technology, more innovation and more will power to produce more food with fewer resources. This is what modern agriculture is already doing today.

What do you think? Is the Chipotle ad a good argument for a return to smaller, sustainable farming? Or is it a simplistic view of a complex issue? Talk to the Harvest Network by clicking here and telling us your story.