Is Chipotle’s Viral New Ad Trying to Trick Us?

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Considering that most millenials love Pixar movies almost as much as they gush over Tex-Mex cuisine, it’s not surprising that Chipotle’s new video ad has gone viral. The animated ad, called “The Scarecrow,” has already racked up nearly five million views on YouTube. It features creepy mechanical crows, sad cows, and a haunting version of “Pure Imagination” (a song from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie) by Fiona Apple.

Chipotle released the dystopian ad in early September, and it’s generated a lot of buzz ever since thanks to its unconventional message (for a fast food chain, anyway): Factory farming is bad, and small, local farms are good. The ad’s central idea appeals especially to young people, who are often more concerned about pesticides in food and treatment of livestock than older generations. But unfortunately, the company doesn’t quite live up to its own hype.

Chipotle has jumped through hoops — both on its website and through company policies that support sustainable agriculture and put locally-produced non-GMO tofu on the menu — to convince its consumers that it’s the “good guy” in the world of food production. But if that’s true, why is the company trying so hard to convince us?  

Despite commendable and impressive efforts to buy produce from small local farms, limit antibiotics and hormones in meat, label GMO items on the menu, and otherwise promote its “Food with Integrity” initiative, Chipotle is not and cannot be a farm-to-table enterprise.

The upscale fast-food chain has reported steady growth over the past few years, and it now boasts 1,400 locations in the United States alone. By villainizing factory farming and glorifying farm-to-table agricultural practices, Chipotle’s sending a message that intentionally misleads customers. In real life, Chipotle is the big factory (although not nearly as dastardly as the one depicted in the video), not the scrappy farmer setting up a local food stand.

Claiming that Chipotle burritos will solve the problems with our current food system and bring us back to simpler times is simply incorrect. And no amount of poignant music and Tim Burton-esque animation will change that fact. The ad is designed to make consumers feel warm and fuzzy about choosing Chipotle, but it’s still important to think about the bigger picture before digging into that ginormous burrito. People truly dedicated to supporting a food system based on small, local, sustainable farms can make more of a direct impact by voting with their forks (and wallets) at farmers’ markets, roadside produce stands, and family-owned livestock farms.

None of this is to say that “The Scarecrow” is a useless piece of slimy PR. Unlike many advertisements, Chipotle’s recent video puts considerations of food supply and production front and center. While it won’t change our whole food system immediately, “The Scarecrow” has definitely gotten us talking and thinking about where our food comes from, and that’s definitely worth at least five million views.

Do you think Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow” ad misleads customers? Share your thoughts in the comments below or get in touch with the author on Twitter @SophBreene

All media via Chipotle

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About the Author
Sophia Breene
After spending eight years as a high school and college athlete, I'm learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle on my own (aka without a coach...

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