Updated on September 25, 2013
This ad by Chipotle has been the topic of a lot of chatter lately. When I first saw it, my reaction was like most – UGH! PRAISE CHIPOTLE FOR BEING SO GOOD AND RESPONSIBLE! – even though deep down inside, I knew it was just all marketing and an expensive cute ad that caught my attention. Chipotle’s tactic here is to use emotion to get responses out of people and through that emotional response, generate a nice, ethical perception of their company. Emotion, rather than statistical evidence, is well-known to make people act.
This morning I read an article (2 parts) titled, “Chipotle’s Scarecrow Part One: Lessons in Corporate Greed” which gave me a much more balanced view of this ad by Chipotle. The most impactful section for me was:
“In the United States pork and poultry cannot be labeled ‘hormone free.’ Why? Because there are no hormones approved for use in the growth of pigs or poultry for meat. Which means all pigs and poultry are for all intents and purposes “hormone free.” Yet hormones remain one of the single most contentious issues for concerned consumers who purchase meat, including pork and poultry. So much so that when most consumers think of rapid growth in meat animals they automatically think of synthetic growth hormones. Which is a logical jump that makes sense when you don’t have a frame of reference or any agricultural experience. If you’re bombarded with messages about growth hormone use in animals everyday and then see or hear about animals who grow very quickly, you’re going to make that connection. So while Arnold knew better than to connect the scene with the chicken with growth hormones many consumers will probably see hormones, rather than the antibiotics in that syringe. And when they do it serves to further the misconception, and feed a vicious cycle of fear marketing that too often ends with unreasonable and dangerous demands.”
A quick google search also showed me this article: Chickens Do Not Receive Growth Hormones: So Why All the Confusion?
“The truth is no hormones have been allowed in poultry production for more than 50 years. Hormone use in poultry production was banned in the United States in the 1950s.”
“Some of the confusion and misunderstanding may stem from the fact that the
poultry and beef cattle industries operate under different regulations. While growth hormone use is banned in poultry production, it is a perfectly legal and accepted practice in the beef cattle industry.”
:::shakes fist at beef::: (again)
Of course I don’t want the animals I eat to be raised indoors in a cage with no light or fresh air and be fed GMO, antibiotic laced feed. I don’t want my chickens to be bred to become so huge they can’t even support their own weight with their little chicken legs. Of course it’d be great if all our food was grown and raised in beautiful pastures, with no pesticides or herbicides or antibiotics or genetic modification. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Our demand for food (particularly meat) puts farmers in a position where they are going to do what is right for them and their income. They’re going to grow and raise what they can sell. However, to think farmers don’t care about their land and the animals they raise, (i.e. their business) is a ridiculous assumption.
Of course farmers can raise organic antibiotic-free animals which can roam free and frolic in the grass. The real question is, will you pay for it? It’s my opinion that it’s up to the consumer to use their wallets to demand what they truly care about. You can’t expect to have unlimited access to organic, free range, cage free, antibiotic free, non-GMO this and that, if you’re not willing to pay more. You also can’t expect to eat meat at every meal if you want meat with those qualities.
The lesson learned from this ad and the farmer who wrote the article (Diana Prichard) is that green-washing is something that should be looked out for in everything. There’s no doubt Chipotle has admirable goals and has taken real steps to accomplishing such goals. However, they should also strive to be less manipulative by not misleading people who don’t know any better.