Money Over Health

This link below is a short film created by Chipotle.

Earlier this month, the Mexican-food chain Chipotle released an animated short called “The Scarecrow.” The film opens with a scarecrow who approaches a smoke-spewing building: Crow Foods Incorporated. Fiona Apple’s song  “Pure Imagination” plays in the background while the Scarecrow goes about his daily routine and workday. He watches as a tube extrudes a substance labeled “100% Beef-ish”; a robotic crow injects a chicken with a green fluid that makes it inflate like a balloon; and a cow trembles inside a tight metal box.

At the end of the day, the Scarecrow goes home to his little farm, with its white fence and red barn. He seems sad by what he’s witnessed and how the public has no idea of what happens in factories, but when he picks a red pepper (as seen on the Chipotle logo), the film becomes brighter and the music’s theme is happier: the Scarecrow has an idea. He harvests vegetables and travels to the city, where he opens a burrito stand. “Cultivate a Better World,” is what his sign/banner states. The message is: Chipotle is not only tasty, it’s virtuous.

“The Scarecrow” has been congratulated as an innovative piece of marketing and beautiful work of art, and applauded for its anti-factory-farming message. As of right now January 22, 2014, it has been viewed 11,891,167 times on YouTube. But not everyone is impressed. Funny or Die released a parody called “Honest Scarecrow,” which casts the video as all sanctimony and no substance. In this version, which pairs the original animation with new lyrics (“Pure Imagination” changes to “Pure Manipulation”), they expressed that Chipotle is a “giant corporation,” trying to make money, and does not genuinely care about our health. No matter how it is farmed, meat is still energy intensive, it still poses serious health problems when consumed in large amounts (American-sized portions), and it only get put on your plate by killing an animal.

Chipotle only began using sustainably raised ingredients about twelve years ago. Their pork is from Niman Ranch, whose hogs are raised without antibiotics, on open pasture or in roomy enclosures layered with hay or other bedding. According to Niman Ranch’s founding pig farmer and manager of its pork business, the company’s farmers are audited by Global Animal Partnership to make sure they meet strict animal-welfare standards. Chipotle buys all of its pork from Niman or similar suppliers.

Chipotle uses only antibiotic-free chicken raised in chicken houses where each bird gets more space than in a conventional operation, some suppliers give their chickens access to the outdoors, and some don’t. Chipotle also tries to avoid cattle raised with antibiotics or growth hormones, though only about eighty per cent of its beef meets that standard. Chipotle buys the rest (20%) of its beef from “bad and unhealthy meat” suppliers, and whenever a Chipotle restaurant uses conventional meat, it notifies customers. The company is contemplating a stricter standard requiring that cattle be grass-fed, but today, it accepts beef that has been “feedlot-finished”. This term means that it is fed grass from the pasture but then it is fed grain before it is brought to the slaughterhouse. 

Chipotle’s attempt to source ingredients that avoid harmful practices seems more sincere than “Honest Scarecrow” gives it credit for, and Chipotle offers much information, transparency, and less secrets and privacy about its meat’s origins than most fast-food restaurants. McDonald’s uses about a billion pounds of beef every year. Even if it wanted to adopt Chipotle’s sourcing standards, the market couldn’t begin to meet its demand.

My honest opinion is that based on all my research I agree with Chipotle’s values and standards. I think it is great to have an alternative for those who are strict about their diet but it really is not possible for every restaurant to do this. It is not profitable and our demand would not be able to keep up with its supply. Chipotle is not the only restaurant in the industry like this so that makes it even better. It is realistic and possible to have something like this in the industry as a healthy alternative. Unfortunately it is not possible to have every place like this. It keeps the demand for farmers around as well. The agricultural industry has a taken a fall. Things like corn are grown enough to fill reasonable demands, meanwhile unreasonable demands like artificial needs. An example would be the government considering corn-fed beef the standard. In doing this the cow is fed corn which it can not digest which torments and poisons them in the process. This has caused an inadequate diet filled with soft drinks and fast foods. And now there is no turning back because if we stop these processes a great loss of profit will occur.

So does “The Scarecrow” initiate an important conversation about our food system? Does it Chipotle’s genuine commitment to sustainability? Or is it an attempt to turn consumer fears about certain agricultural methods into sales? What are you opinions?




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