BEEF Daily

Chipotle Continues To Use Fear To Sell Its Burritos


Chipotle unveils new fearful advertisement depicting animal abuse. How should the industry respond?

The Chipotle fast-food burrito chain is at it again – using fear-mongering tactics to scare folks into buying its burritos. This isn’t the first time the brand has used fear to sell products, as the chain’s anti-conventional agriculture messages have been around since the chain’s establishment. It does appear, however, that Chipotle has upped the ante in recent years.

Last year, the company unveiled an ad that featured Willie Nelson crooning a sad song about “factory farming.” The ad included images of chickens shaped like antibiotic pills, and livestock stacked tightly into enclosed buildings. The blue skies lightened once the animals were released and allowed to frolic outside. The overall message was that farmers and ranchers were doing animals wrong and that, by purchasing Chipotle burritos, one could stand up against modern agriculture and enjoy ethically sound food in the process.

Then, Chipotle backtracked a little bit. The company admitted it couldn’t keep up with the demand for its all-natural steak burritos, so it would be serving conventionally raised beef to keep up with growing sales. This admission puzzled me, as the chain so adamantly protests anything but all-natural meat products. Funny that Chipotle would be willing to lower its so-called safety and quality standards just to make a few extra bucks.


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Now Chipotle has launched another frightening campaign. The ad features a scarecrow, with eerie music accompanying images of animal abuse – chickens stuck with needles to make them heavier, and steers so fat they can hardly walk. The ad concludes with the tag line, “Cultivate a better world,” and encourages viewers to make better food choices by growing their own food (which is a good idea), and buying Chipotle, of course.

I’m so disgusted by the tactic some companies use of bashing conventional agriculture in order to move more all-natural products. Consumers shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about buying regular meats from the grocery store, and they shouldn’t fear that if they don’t buy natural or organic that they are somehow harming their children.

What do you think of Chipotle’s latest advertisement? How should we respond? Will this marketing program hurt the industry? Is a boycott of Chipotle products called for? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 25

on Sep 17, 2013

Please pay attention to the beef niche marketing now bad mouthing GMO grain. These beef niche markets are so minor and few are financially sustainable but use some similar marketing promotion.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013

I think you should grow up. Consumers should have a choice. The commercial chicken market is disgusting and filled with growth hormone and antibiotics. Some in the beef industry feed animal by products - chicken - who have been beef- what a cluster and what a recipe for disaster. GMOs should be labeled for CONSUMERS to decide, livestock fed GMOs, antibiotics on a routine basis and growth hormones should also be labeled for CONSUMERS to decide. Your mention of a boycott makes me think you have something to hide.

Blaine (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013
This diagram might be easier for you to understand on hormone levels. And some information on your antibiotic accusation.

We really have nothing to hide. Just, apparently, a lot to educate.

on Sep 17, 2013

Growth promotant hormones are not used in poultry production as it is illegal and no products exist. I can't quite make sense of your third sentence as the dashes break up whatever train of thought you were going for. Please tell us specific concerns about GMOs and, if possible, cite scientific sources to back them up.
All the information on livestock production is freely available to consumers. The peer-reviewed research is out there. Take the time to educate yourself on the facts. As far as the boycott goes, I choose not to spend my money with businesses that denigrate my way of life.

W.E. (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013

Amanda, have you ever walked through a chicken house, or smelled the sickening stench from eight of them when the chickens near slaughter weight, as we do every evening? There are better ways to raise chickens. Jim, cattle feeders, not the big packers, are taking the losses right now. That's not financially sustainable. And have you seen what is happening in Colorado, where center pivot irrigation is widespread, growing feed for cattle penned up in feedlots instead of perennials and prairie grass for grazing? "Conventional" agriculture is to blame for the fact that the rain can't penetrate the soil there. “Traditional” native prairie and well-managed perennial grasses absorb rainfall and hold the soils much better than tilled ground planted to annual monocultures in center pivots. Yes, cattlemen will need more help to raise their cattle on grass. Have you noticed how few young people return to work on the family farm or ranch and then end up unemployed or underemployed in a city somewhere? More and more cattlemen are entering the grassfed beef niche market because it is both ecologically and financially sustainable to work with nature, not against it, and to work directly with consumers, not through a long chain of profit-takers.
Cheap food is very expensive, especially to the health of the soil and the health of our children. The obesity epidemic among this country's poor and young actually comes from easy access to an overabundance of cheap carbohydrates, which leave people starved for high quality complete protein like grassfed beef. Not long ago, the food pyramid recommended eleven servings of breads and cereals. Good human health can come only from a balanced variety of high quality foods grown on healthy soil, well maintained through natural means, like managed grazing. Yes, farmers and ranchers who make their living by grazing their cattle sustainably sometimes have to battle the notion that food should be cheap. Our mass media have educated people that they should spend more on cell phone and internet service than on groceries. That's just wrong. As cattle and beef producers, we should be fighting to get more young people back to the ranch, fighting to educate the public about the many extra health benefits of beef, instead of discounting one another. Why are so many of us just accepting the rigid marketing plan that Big Corn has imposed upon us? Over the decades since World War II, Americans have been trained to take whatever corporations want to pay us. As independent producers whose animals must be born on grass and raised on grass, we don't have to take it. We can keep them and grow them out on grass. If our cattle can't grow easily and finish on grass, it's because they have been selected on corn. We can select the ones that can make it on grass and survive. We will stick to selling our grassfed beeves directly to people who cook their own food at home, but you can sell yours to Chipotle, if you so choose.

on Sep 17, 2013

I'm not a soil scientist, but I would be willing to bet that the flooding is less due to conventional agriculture and more due to the 15 inches of rainfall in a short period of time. And I have walked through a poultry house, several in fact. It was very pleasant inside and odors were minimal because airflow circulation is a top priority for animal health.

Blaine (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013

Well said!!! I don't eat at Chipotle. If they just offered the "niche market" for options I would have no problem with them. However, since they make mindless blows at an agriculture industry who's goal is to feed the world, that bothers me.

on Sep 17, 2013

I agree with W.E. in that cattle are a designed (by God) to eat grass, not grain, and are an essential part of the soil regeneration cycle. With respec to the GMO issue, science doesn't always have the full picture of the long-term effects of the things it creates (DDT and Saccharine are two examples). The closer one stays to the natural cycle of things the better the outcome it seems. As the old adage goes, "It's not nice to fool [with] Mother Nature".

on Sep 17, 2013

So rather than trust the best scientific data we have at this time, it's better to put blind trust into nature? Don't get me wrong, nature has done a great job; we're all here after all. However, it also makes a ton of mistakes -- ahem, cancer? Nature also endowed us with the ability to think logically and create solutions to problems and utilize resources more efficiently.
The outcome may seem better but the reality may be quite different.

avatar (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2013

And God designed humans to hunt sabre tooth tigers with a sharp stick. Do you do that?

on Sep 19, 2013

Nope, because I have that logical, creative mind I mentioned that allows me to use a firearm.

JakeT (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013

These ads are not "shocking" consumers. They are simply affirming what consumers already know. The U.S. beef industry is one of the most unregulated beef markets in the developed world. Over 25 million U.S. cattle have been fed beta-agonists like Zilmax to put on weight quickly. Zilmax has been banned by the EU since 1996 due to human health concerns. People in the U.S. know that the FDA is a revolving door between government and industry, that the U.S. agriculture industry is driven by profit, and that consumers cannot rely on on government regulators to keep them safe.

on Sep 17, 2013

They reaffirm what the uninformed consumer already believes, not what is factual.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013

Interesting, I just finished filling 9000 head of new modern pig finishing space all with ...u guessed it....antibiotic free pigs. I choose not to eat at or promote the restaurants that I supply meat for because it IS antibiotic free. I didn't really have the choice whether or not I raised abf pigs but I am and this definitely reaffirms my decision not to eat it. Is it truly antibiotic free? Yes, given the rules of the game and oversight by several entities, the meat that enters the system as abf has been since birth. Although interestingly, Chipotle and Panera Bread, have had to reconsider their abf only and offer non-abf meat because you can't simply supply the amounts needed due to health challenges. Along with the niche markets of abf and all-natural, came a new set of pathogens and disease. Actually, they aren't new, we just haven't seen them in the last 50-60 years and they are making a resurgence. Let me tell you, The humane part of raising meat animals, doesn't come from abf or conventional diets, it comes from the people who raise those animals.

Doug (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013

we lose an average of 33 cattle producers a day. Nobody talks about that. I am more concerned with people staying in the cattle biz than some stupid commercial.

Maria Cox (not verified)
on Sep 17, 2013

I'm a farmer, and blogged my response here, entitled, "I am the face of the industrial producer."

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2013

Ignorance of facts causes plenty of confusion and way too much fear.

Really, consumers DO have choices between most any of their 'feared' foods and healthful foods: organic foods and other methods of production abound, these days.

There are no residues of anything allowed in beef, though I don't know about other meats. That includes hormones, antibiotics, and anything else. Only marinades with a list of ingredients on the meat package are allowed.

Modern, science based methods of raising food animals raise very healthful food for consumers. Why not find a farmer, or an Extension specialist to ask questions of rather than rely on anti-animals-as-food activists for information?

Yes, it can get confusing when some actual farmers will accuse those who differ in opinion of methods to raise animals spread false information about "conventionally" produced animals and other foods. Still, there are better sources for information and you should be a bit suspicious of motives when someone denigrates other producers to sell his own (generally higher priced) food.

Isn't it strange that some want us all to go backward in time to a more pastoral time with 'local food' all that was available? It seems logical that larger packing plants developed to counter the difficulties of small facilities not being able to afford the necessary improvements to assure biologically safe methods of determining the health of an animal, beyond 'eyeballing' the critter???? It is nice, even good for ones' health to be able to buy fruits and fresh veggies in winter in our frigid northlands, too.

Quite a number of consumers actually prefer beef from cattle fed for a few short months on a ration containing some grain, though I do prefer our grain fat, older beef an occasional grain fed, well aged steak is a great treat!

Anyone who believes the cattle and beef industry is not regulated enough obviously has never participated in it! You would be hard pressed to find a MORE regulated business. From the small family farm, to the commercial feedlots, to packing plants, even the label on the package of meat has to meet strict federal regulations on everything from what information to the size of the print! The farm is regulated from county zoning, to state laws to federal rules on every aspect involved in raising animals. Look it up on the internet, from county to state, to federal government agriculture agencies.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 18, 2013

Error correction on previous comments: I usually prefer our GRASS fed, older beef, but an occasional grain fed, dry aged steak is a real treat.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 19, 2013

I agree with W.E., Our whole society is messed up. We are willing to spend more for cell phones and entertainment than we are for food. There was a time in this country when food was the primary concern and entertainment wasn't even an option. History has a way of repeating and I think we are headed back to those days.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 19, 2013

That youtube video of Chipolte's is disgusting - So many younger people are completely taken over by simple pulling on their heart strings - blatant marketing to these folks - it's the downfall of not only modern ag, but of this country.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 23, 2013

I am a senior in college at OSU I was raised on a commercial beef cattle ranch and that is my main goal is to go back and run my family's ranch and raise better cattle through improved genetics, management, and technology. So I decided to go to school to educate myself further and while at OSU I decided to pick up some minors because I realized my focus on strictly Animal Science wasn't cutting it. Rangeland Ecology and Management, Soil Science, and Agbusiness AgEcon are my minors.
Yes feedlots stink that's what happens when you get a lot of animals of any kind in one place. I've spent a year at Willard Sparks Beef Research Center at OSU so I know how they work. But feeding cattle at feedlots doubles their weight in 6-8 months and sometimes less providing us with food.
As for the GMOs comment that foods should be labeled that contain them. That is essentially taking away from the producers that choose already to raise organic crops, because those producers clearly state that they are organic so it should be assumed that everything else is not.
The soils in Colorado that are not draining or allowing water to penetrate them should be a problem because of bad water that is being used by the irrigation systems which causes a sodium build up causing you to have sodic soils. Which can be fixed by adding gypsum because the calcium will essentially kick off the sodium from the cation exchange sites.
As for Chipolte when they launched the first video "Back to the Start" I decided not to step foot in one of their restaurants again. Not because they want to have free range meat in their products but because of the way they went about announcing it. They bashed us and gave a misrepresentation to the American people who are so far removed from agriculture that they do not know how to even raise livestock or grow a crop. Panera has decided to turn towards free range products too along with organic products, but their video EZ Chicken does not bash agriculture they just simply stated that we want to go that route and that is fine. They found a niche and that niche will help support those producers that want to be organic or all natural or grass fed. The simple fact is that is not sustainable or possible to feed the world on free range grass fed organic products. If you would like to argue with that please look up how long it would take to raise each livestock animal to harvest weight and then figure out how many acres you will need for just one of the many feedlots to disperse all their animals. And if you want to talk plants then look up how many bushels of a crop is produced by the organic version versus are new genetically engineered versions along with how much damage pests can do to a crop if not treated.
I am not voicing all this to be rude. Personally I know nothing about chickens and pork production and know very little about crops, but I do know that when the Agricultural society does not stand strong together and continue to improve management, genetics, sustainability, and all the other areas we will fail. Also, no one person in agriculture knows everything so before fingers start getting pointed ask an expert in that field. Yes something might be a product of it but it could be because of mismanagement or ignorance. So educate people and if you do not know say you do not know. We have to share our stories now of how we do it on our farms to America so start sharing.

Adam Miller (not verified)
on Sep 24, 2013

We watched the behind the scenes video of the commercial in my PR in Ag class and it's kinda sad how clueless the creators are about agriculture.

on Feb 27, 2014

When is someone going to organize a boycott of this misguided company? See the latest:

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 20, 2014

If everyone that is connected to the beef industry would not buy their product would help

on May 21, 2014

Just wanting to say that I think your article is not very balanced and a bit biased. This is to be expected I guess considering where the article is coming from. I am an agriculture scientist for close to 20 years already. There are many practices that have been developed in all agriculture industries in general for the sake of progress, science, increasing productivity and profitability that have greatly impacted on animal welfare and all food and fiber industries and environment. This has resulted in negative impacts on the environment, the local communities and the end consumers. I understand that we need to feed the growing masses and sometimes the things we do for the name of progress will have negative consequences. Eco-farming is really a personal choice that everyone should have the right to choose if it is right for them or not. As a researcher I think there is better ways to produce agricultural products more naturally then we do. This becomes very difficult to achieve though when you produce on a very big scale and at the moment I believe this can only be achieved through conventional production practices. I think in general most Ag scientist today though have learned allot from the past and are trying to develop technologies that have minimal impact on the environment. Also today there are many regulatory bodies in place to help prevent allot of the problems that negative developments have had on the environment and community in the past. Kind Regards to all

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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