Chipotle has good food. Its prices are reasonable considering the generous portion size given. So, straight up, I have no problem with the food Chipotle serves. However, what I don’t like and can’t quite reconcile in my mind is their propaganda. For a couple of years now, this food company, founded and run by mega-millionaire Steve Ells, has taken a controversial stance against “industrial” agriculture and it wants its customers to applaud this action in dollar sales.
“Food with Integrity” is their motto/mission with their focus on using naturally raised meats while promoting sustainable agriculture practices. That’s a reasonable objective. This nation flourishes on the freedom to choose one’s personal course of action. Unfortunately, Chipotle has decided to go a step beyond espousing their convictions on “food integrity,” and pretty much throw the traditional American farmer under the bus. That didn’t have to happen.
Chipotle’s advertising firm has focused upon a slam campaign against big corporate farming. Using misleading, emotionally-charged docu-cartoon media spots on YouTube and a satirical “comedy” series on Hulu, they are meant to leave the average consumer disturbed about “big ag” practices. The agricultural industry is very complex. Is there room for improvement? Always. But creating an atmosphere of distrust and fear doesn’t help this nation’s food production system and certainly doesn’t help consumers in their quest for the truth.
All farmers in this nation play an important role in feeding people safe, healthy, and nutritious food. Big farms, small ones – organic or nonorganic, we need them all. I realize that Mr. Ells is trying to make a statement against giant companies like Tyson, Swift, and Monsanto, but the average farmer is affected by his innuendoes as well. In America today 95% of farms are family owned operations. Those of us that raise livestock and grain adhere to a strict series of regulations set in place to ensure a safe and healthy end product.
Steven Ells criticizes traditional farming methods that have helped and continue to help build his billion dollar business, and that exemplifies hypocrisy at its best. He admits his food chain uses products and sources that are not organic or non-GMO when needed, but his goal remains to cater to a consumer group he brings to his doors by way of scare tactics that he promulgates. This conducts seems to lack integrity.
It appears that Mr. Ells continues to cash in on a self-made image at the expense of farmers and ranchers who are simply trying to supply this country’s homes, restaurants, hospitals and school cafeterias with the sustenance needed to thrive. Why would someone choose to bite the hand that feeds them?
There is an increasing desire for consumers to know where their food comes from and what is in their food. That, in itself, is a very good thing. But people need to be careful where they get their information. What is the motivation of the contributing “source”? Is it to make a profit?
The food industry is constantly improving its production methods. It is in everybody’s best interest that safe and principled procedures are in place and respected by those directly contributing to this nation’s food supply. All the Kansas farmers I am fortunate enough to know (and there are many) are both conscientious and ethical. Most share in the concern over the direction that Chipotle has decided to take and are willing to dialog with anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of how grain and livestock are actually produced. If interested, you can contact me directly for more information.
But to Mr. Ells I offer this suggestion – instead of biting the hand that feeds you, stick a burrito in your mouth instead.