Chipotle and Panera: Food for thought

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Fear and misinformation. That is the easiest way to describe the advertising tactics of the popular restaurant chains Chipotle and Panera Bread.

ChipotleThis scarecrow is likely dumbfounded by the video he was in. 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.

click image to zoomPaneraEZ Chicken evidently didn't work as "easy" as Panera thought it would. 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.

Culver'sThank you Culver's for supporting farmers. 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. 

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Kansas  |  September, 18, 2013 at 01:08 PM

What is stopping producers & producer groups from filing legal challenges to what are clearly and demonstrably false, libelous and slanderous claims by these companies? If FORD began marketing their vehicles by implying or saying GM was producing a less safe, possibly dangerous or unhealthy product, do you think they would waste any time or effort bemoaning the "unfairness"? Do you think Chipolte would dare to libel the practices of their direct competitors' corporate vendors ,or even their own, for paper goods, oils, power, equipment, etc., with no fear of the legal consequences? Being 1% or less of their consumers, and historically impotent in litigation or garnering publicity, their legal depts. give them assurance that they have complete freedom to trash us and laugh. Past time for us to contact Feld Entertainment, whose lawyers managed to crush HSUS and see them convicted on federal RICCO charges. In the vernacular, we need to "grow a pair", stop being cynical marketers' doormats, stop whining to each other and demand the respect we've earned.

minnesota  |  September, 18, 2013 at 02:37 PM

The injection-fattened chickens and stacked cow-boxes are surely not literally occurring, though I think they speak to the general trend of industrial agriculture. Are Chipotle or Panera directly claiming that their meat is healthier? Or are they simply insinuating that consumers should feel better about eating their meat. If only the latter, I see no grounds for complaint. It is an emotional, non-scientific argument and marketing strategy. A technique that Big Ag and its formidable lobbying and marketing allies have used many times in the past. Frankly, as a farmer, I often find the consolidation of meat operations and corresponding systemic 'efficiencies' repulsive. The scientific difference, or lack thereof, between small-scale organic meat and large-scale conventional meat does not matter. My consumer dollars are voting on the farming practices themselves.

NW Indiana  |  September, 18, 2013 at 02:55 PM

The "fear your food and hate the producer" program is a facet of a much larger trend that is instigated by the (hidden) devils that lead our leaders. A search of 'Agenda 21' is a good entry point to learn something of what the New World Order fiends have in mind for our future.

Jason Gary    
Columbus, OH  |  September, 19, 2013 at 11:33 AM

The author misses *all* subtleties in The Scarecrow and latches immediately onto the most obvious yet incidental and misconstrued aspects of the video. The point is not that agriculture is currently corrupt -- categorically. The point is that food production has experienced an accelerating trend toward quantity over quality, with fewer and fewer considerations made for potential downsides or animal/human wellbeing. The idea behind the Scarecrow is that -- in a dystopian FUTURE (i.e.: not currently, you'll notice), food is mass-produced like engine parts and stuffed into people's mouths like barn-fodder. The Scarecrow character, himself, is metaphorical. He has forgotten his true self. He allows a crow to command and steer him this way and that. He's been subdued, and he is chastised with squawks when showing his awareness -- which is the hallmark characteristic of a scarecrow (being a sentinel). The idea that food -- especially fast food -- must be chemically and genetically augmented is an outright, obvious lie. Augmentation makes production easier and more reliable (which, to many degrees, is appropriate and necessary), but at what cost, and at what point is the line crossed -- and how many lines? Don't pretend that food production isn't an industry, and that industries aren't capable of corruption, greed, and corner-cutting. So, full-circle, the author assumes that the commercial is viciously attacking small-time Farmer Steve in Des Moines, Iowa. That isn't the case, and to whittle such a provocative, honest, and well-executed message down to such trivial pettiness is either a practice of absolute ignorance, or a transparent and half-assed straw man fallacy. Pun intended. PS: Fiona Apple.

Kansas  |  September, 19, 2013 at 02:36 PM

Mr. Gary negates his entire argument in his first sentence. "Misses all subtleties" IS The Point & The Intent... That Jason misses. You go on and on about things that Chipolte's marketing geniuses purposely over-ride with appeals to strong emotions, intentionally creating the perceptions that all modern ag practices are inherently "evil" and harmful in some way. They are preying upon the ignorance and gullibility of those who have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of the concepts, false I think, Jason claims underlie The Message this profit-only motivated ad campaign. Jason's twisted tale bizzarely assumes Chipolte is being benevolent in helping save their customers from consuming the fruitful of evil corporate "frankenFoods" - an invented pejorative that perfectly demonstrates the anti-modern ag movement's Alinsky propaganda methods. Jason himself closes his Apologist screed by ridiculing, demeaning and demonizing the author, after having made no legitimate case. Another typical "subtle", undermining attack by a professional troll "working the rubes" from - Columbus?

Kurt Dorr    
Naperville IL  |  September, 22, 2013 at 11:30 PM

Great article. I hate Chipotle and their "Food With Integrity" slogan. I have emailed them and wanted to meet with them about it and they refuse to respond. Nothing but thugs.

Minnesota  |  December, 30, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Michael your point is right on. The fact that people want to say that Panera and Chipolte appear to have as their core principle only humanities well being and not that any of their motivation is driven by evil profiteering is interesting. The livestock farmer has been accused of for years of only implementing changes in the industry to increase profit. We must not forget that recently Chipolte had to adjust their meat claim to allow for the fact they could not provide antibiotic free meat all the time. They changed their claim "to when available". Now it would seem to me that a more principled response would have been to close a store or two to match the supply of their product. Or if they would prefer they could come to me and pay me what it cost to produce the product they desire for humanity enough so I can make even a portion of the margin they make on their food sales. This would help me to feed and cloth my children. But rather than do either of those they just changed their sign, principled my a**. Let us be clear here I do not criticize any company for telling the truth about what separates their product from others nor do I judge them on their beliefs. But let us also be clear that the last thing that Chipolte whats today is that all animals are treated like they claim they want them to be because if they in fact were the only thing that would keep someone from going to the next place would be the quality of the food. Their marketing department would not know what to do if everyone claimed to have antibiotic free raised meat "when available". To falsely state your principles (i.e. close stores) and then demonize the other restaurants suppliers as a back door way of gaining customer base is not integrity at all.


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