During this month’s Grammy Awards ceremony, Chipotle debuted a new advertisement entitled “Back to the Start.” Set to the mournful crooning of Willie Nelson singing Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” an animated farmer enters and then ultimately chooses to leave the industrial food system.
The commercial plays more like a short story about a farmer’s realization that he does not want exploitation to be a part of his livelihood. The stop-motion production captures the farmer’s experience as he gets carried away by factory farming, and then ultimately decides to dismantle the buildings and constraints on his farm to return it to its former health.
You would expect a company like Chipotle, which is owned by McDonald’s and has over 1,000 locations nationwide, to ignore issues like sustainability and local agriculture, but despite their growth and success the company has remained true to its vision of “Food with Integrity”. Chipotle used this commercial to show how their business model differs from other fast food options; they show the stark contrast between the industrial model of their competitors and the more natural model they have chosen.
I love a Chipotle burrito as much as the next person, and I was heartened by the fact that buying food at Chipotle is not only delicious, but also supports a company that shares my beliefs. They use “naturally raised” meat grown without added antibiotics, arsenic, and hormones (common feed additives in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and conventional chicken houses). They always choose organic and local ingredients where available. Perhaps most importantly, they support their suppliers, family farmers, encouraging them to treat their land and livestock with respect.
Although “The Scientist” is a great song and captured the mood of the commercial perfectly, farmers don’t need to go “back to the start” and turn back the clock to sustain the planet. They can combine the best of both worlds so to speak, integrating modern technology and management into harvesting sustainable and delicious food. If farmers work with companies who advocate sustainable progress and a commitment to respect for the environment, they can make a living without abusing their land, enabling generations to come to enjoy the planet as we do.
Next time I indulge in a Chipotle burrito (which I am thinking will be pretty soon… all of this burrito talk is making me hungry), I’ll savor the fresh, tasty food that much more for knowing about the impact on our food culture they have cultivated.