The Peterson Farm Bros' Beef With Chipotle (Part 4): The Definition of Ethical Behaivor

Farming certainly isn't perfect. Neither are farmers. Neither is Chipotle. Neither are consumers. We must all remember this as we move forward. Sustainable food production is something that everyone should continue to strive for, both farmers and consumers alike.
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In Part 1 of this four-part blog series, we discussed how we believe Chipotle is misleading consumers with their advertisement videos "The Scarecrow" and "Farmed and Dangerous." The blog laid out the 3 definitions of farming that we believe Chipotle has gotten wrong. Part 2 expanded on the first definition: The definition of a family farmer. Part 3 covered the second definition: The definition of a humanely raised animal. Part 4 covers the third and final definition: The definition of ethical behavior.

Chipotle's videos portray farmers as unethical. The main character of "Farmed and Dangerous" depicts farmers as a CEO of a huge company who will do whatever it takes to make as much money as possible. While farmers are concerned about staying in business and supporting their family so they can continue to grow the food you eat, we are also very concerned about safety, sustainability, conservation, and overall ethical behavior. I hope I've been able to communicate this in the previous sections. However, the farmer's emotional connection to the land he works on and the animals he raises can only truly be understood by visiting a real farm and talking to a real farmer. If you don't believe me, go tour a farm and find out for yourself.

On the flip side, Chipotle also loves to portray themselves as a company that prides itself on ethical behavior. After reading the last three blog posts, I hope you can understand why I struggle with this claim. In fact, I believe (ironically) that Chipotle may actually be the ones who are being unethical and greedy in the whole situation. Some things to ponder:

-Chipotle is a huge corporation that owns more than 1,500 restaurants and boasts a stock-market value of more than $15 billion. Its shares currently trade at about $550 apiece. Their marketing schemes attempt to tear down huge farms and support the little guy. After reading all of this I hope you can see that in reality, THEY are the huge industry greedily trying to make a profit, and FAMILY FARMERS are the little guy, despite the size of our farms. The fact that they try to paint an opposite picture is incredibly ironic and simply untrue.

-Chipotle claims to have "food with integrity" that is better than other fast food restaurants. What about a burrito loaded with fat (58.5 grams), sodium (2,475 mg) and calories (1,225) makes it any better than any other fast food out there? (See: Big Mac Nutrition vs. Chipotle Burrito Nutrition) And why do they never mention the terribly unhealthy soft drinks they serve? How do their false claims against family farmers give their burritos more integrity? Are they not misleading consumers into thinking they are getting "better" food, when a lot of the time they are getting their supply from the very farmers they are attacking? (See image below)

Many chipotle restaurants serve conventionally raised meat, due to shortages.

-In "Farmed and Dangerous," Chipotle spent millions of dollars to pay big city actors to try and depict modern day agriculture in a comedy. These actors have no concept of what a real farm is like, and are only saying what they are paid to say. Chipotle claims this series is a "fictional comedy," but they won't argue with people who believe it is exactly what real agriculture looks like. I've seen many comments on the videos where people are completely misinformed but still tell Chipotle good job. Chipotle only replies with "Thanks!" and never corrects the fact that what they commented was untrue. They are concerned only with support from the consumers who pay them money, not the truth.

-In "The Scarecrow," Chipotle uses a fictional cartoon to depict modern day agriculture. If they truly believe modern day agriculture is comparable to that cartoon, why not use actual footage from actual farms? The current anti-big agriculture movement is entirely based on skewed promotion like this (heavily edited and/or cartoon videos) and I believe it is truly unethical. If you can't convince someone of something by showing them real life evidence, it's probably not the truth.

Anti-agriculture activists rely on cartoons and emotionally charged music to get their message across. (Photo credit to Chipotle)

-Chipotle posted a picture of the huge party they had following the release of "Farmed and Dangerous." This to me captures how I feel about their approach. Do you think any farmers were invited to this big-city event? Do you think the celebration is really based on promoting the truth about agriculture? Or are they celebrating the fact that their marketing technique is convincing people to buy more of their burritos? While they are celebrating the misleading of consumers in their New York City event venue, farmers around the country are still hard at work raising the very food they eat.

The "Farmed and Dangerous" after party in New York City. (Photo credit to Chipotle)

-Chipotle offers no solutions to their so-called "problems" with agriculture. They are just telling consumers to stop supporting big farmers and start buying more Chipotle burritos. Whenever someone's solution to a problem is to give them more of your money, you should be very skeptical of their intent and motives.

In conclusion:

Farming certainly isn't perfect. Neither are farmers. Neither is Chipotle. Neither are consumers. We must all remember this as we move forward. Sustainable food production is something that everyone should continue to strive for, both farmers and consumers alike. There will be billions more people for farmers to feed in the next couple of decades. However, if we truly want to reach sustainable food production people must be willing to accept new technology in farming while still standing for the truth and ethical values. Resorting to using mistruths to bash the farmers who are feeding the world is not a solution! We must work together to find new solutions that are not in conflict with the current ones we already have. If we do that, feeding the world AND taking care of the world can coexist.

My challenge to consumers: Challenge companies like Chipotle to stand for TRUTH, not just for successful marketing. If you want to live a healthy life, cook for yourself more often, eat in moderation, and exercise daily. Don't eat fast food, Chipotle or not. Continue to ask questions about modern day agriculture and the food you are eating. But, be careful where you are getting your information from. Do not trust the Internet. Be skeptical. If you really want to be sure of the truth, visit real farms in your area to see with your own eyes what is happening and talk with real farmers about the issues we've talked about.

My challenge to farmers: Be transparent. We should have nothing to hide! Open up your farm to the public to allow them to see the real life production of their food. Try to communicate the beauty of farming together as a family. Answer questions consumers have to the best of your ability. And most importantly, always be on the lookout for ways to allow your farming operation to become more sustainable, more eco-friendly, and more efficient! Farming is an industry that has to continually evolve for the better. If we still farmed like we did in the '50's there would obviously be a lot of problems!

My challenge to Chipotle: Continue with your approach to provide quality fast food to consumers that comes from local, family farms! Continue to use mainly organic food products if you want, I have no problem with that! But please, DO NOT ATTACK LARGE FAMILY FARMERS! Instead, start making videos and advertisements showing the TRUTH about family farms in America. You have an open invitation to come out and visit our farm. I hope other farmers will follow suit. I believe searching for and promoting the truth about modern day agriculture will get you a lot farther with customers than promoting lies and half-truths for profit's sake. Ethics should always be more important than profit. Sustainable food production can and will happen if we are all working together instead of attacking each other with unethical profit-driven motives! Listen, I used to eat at your restaurant every week in college! Your food was delicious! But, sadly, you have lost a valued customer for the time being. If you do decide to change your approach, and support all farmers who are practicing ethical behavior and producing safe, high quality food, I would absolutely love to start eating your burritos again! Hope to hear from you soon, Chipotle!

Check out The Peterson Farm Blog here.