Published February 13, 2012
Some Twitter users watching the Grammys last night declared that it brought tears to their eyes. I'm not talking about the tribute to Whitney Houston, but rather a 2-minute ad sandwiched in between two Grammy segments.
Titled “Back to the Start”, the ad featured Willie Nelson covering the Coldplay song "The Scientist", while on the screen animated scenes of penned-up farm animals get injected with antibiotics, processed, boxed and transported into the big city.
It also shows a dejected farmer contemplating the worst until he has an epiphany. After that, the fences flip into open pastures where the farm animals roam free. The last shot shows a now happy farmer loading his products on a Chipotle truck.
The video, which was the restaurant chain's first national advertisement in the company's 18-year history, has actually been making waves on the Internet since last August when it first went up on YouTube (more than 4.4 million people have viewed it already).
It may feature cute animation, but the message is a strong one. It’s an indictment of what many consider a dark side to the meat industry here in America: factory farming.
While people may dream of animals roaming free before being taken to slaughterhouses, in reality, most meat comes from animals held in cramped cages their entire lives, pumped full of drugs and food that plumps them up in a short amount of time.
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold tells FoxNews.com that the company ran the ad during the Grammy Awards “because we wanted to expose more people to it and thought the Grammy audience would appreciate it…Judging by the reaction, it has certainly made an impression on people.”
Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, applauds the ad. The group’s president, Gene Baur says that normally, factory farm owners work hard to prevent people from learning what goes on inside factory doors. He goes on to say, “efforts like Chipotle's, which educate the public about industrialized animal production, are a step in the right direction.”
Chipotle has Cultivate Foundation --a foundation dedicated to helping support sustainable agriculture, family farming, and culinary education. On the foundation’s website the company declares that more than 97 percent of U.S. pork comes from confinement operations. The company’s ad and a public statement by their founder seem to indicate Chipotle is in the other 3 percent.
“Delicious, affordable food can be produced without exploiting the farmers, the animals or the environment,” declares Chipotle chairman Steve Ells. “Chipotle has proven this to be true, but Chipotle is only one small part of the solution. Our goal now should be to have all food produced as sustainably as possible.”
Arnold tells us “all of the meat we serve is naturally raised (coming from animals that are raised in a humane way and without the use of antibiotics or added hormones).” Chipotle reports having contributed more than $2 million to various causes related to sustainable farming. The financial aspect of this matter doesn’t end there.
Arnold says the company spends more money on food than any other national restaurant company, because they use better ingredients. The big question remains, can the average consumer afford to eat this way? Arnold believes it is possible.
“For too long, really good food from great sources has only been available to more elite consumers, but it shouldn't be,” he said. He says he believes “everyone should have access to better food. And we are showing that that can be done - that you can make great food with premium quality ingredients available and affordable for everyone.”
Of course it’s all about supply and demand. Arnold points out, “if more companies went this way, the supply chain would move to meet that demand, and prices would probably moderate.”