Fear and misinformation. That is the easiest way to describe the advertising tactics of the popular restaurant chains Chipotle and Panera Bread.
Both chains have been actively pushing non-hormone, antibiotic free, ethically raised meat and poultry products. They’ve both promoted their preferred types of animal protein through artistic, animated videos meant to alter consumer perceptions of conventional agriculture products.
Chipotle’s most recent YouTube slap in the face to farmers and ranchers debuted this past week. It’s a video called “The Scarecrow” that was meant to promote a free video game app where the main character serves Chipotle to consumers “on a journey to bring real food back to the people.” Unfortunately, the video has painted a negative and untrue picture of agriculture.
Cattle, chicken and pigs are run on conveyor belts in a factory straight into a machine that liquefies them before turning the slurry into a more recognizable cut of meat. Other chickens can be seen given a shot with a syringe that instantly makes them balloon up. Dairy cows are milked in boxes stacked on top of one another in a dark building.
This video has just been the tip of the iceberg in a long line of corporate posturing by Chipotle.
Last year, Chipotle created a video promoting their campaign “Meat Without Drugs.” That “science-” based video has only received 65,000 views, while “The Scarecrow” is approaching 5 million views in just six days on YouTube.
The video endeavor that really took the cake for Chipotle was “Back to the Start.” It has well over 7 million views and features a claymation farmer who is doing well for himself. He’s built several large dairies and hog barns, making a really nice operation for he and his family. But after seeing the side-effects that pumping his livestock with antibiotics and a green slime in a “factory farm,” he decides to tear down the barns and sell products to Chipotle. I believe that example will happen when pigs fly.
Panera also jumped into the farmer foray in July with its “EZ Chicken” campaign. The Panera advertising effort fell flat on its face after outcry from agriculture producers. Farmers and rancher were troubled by the assertion that producers utilizing antibiotics were lazy, especially when a series of pictures featuring the pill shaped EZ Chicken made their way around social media.
I’ve got no “beef” with marketing free range, organic, or natural meat and poultry. As long as consumers are supporting animal agriculture by choosing a cut of meat rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, I see nothing wrong with it. However, these promotions have been made on false pretenses that their products are healthier and taste better. There is no hard evidence or facts to back up these claims.
If Chipotle and Panera were trying to inspire farmers and ranchers to produce the type of products they are selling, I’d say it was a failed attempt. It just made me not want to eat at those establishments and support their fear-mongering agenda.
How about thanking farmers and ranchers, instead of alienating the producers who work their tails off everyday making sure Americans and the rest of the globe are provided with a safe, healthy and abundant food supply?
Culver’s is a restaurant chain that is making sure that agriculturists are recognized with their “Thank You Farmers” program. With any luck maybe more restaurants will take a page out of Culver’s playbook and avoid the poor examples set by Chipotle and Panera.