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Chipotle’s “Farmed and Dangerous” Series Misinforms Consumers Under the Veil of Social Change

By on Mar 19, 2014

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Chipotle’s Farmed and Dangerous mini series, a follow up to its Scarecrow cartoon that made waves across the agricultural landscape, uses gross exaggeration and tasteless humor to illustrate the “face” of the food industry as they see it. But, for those of us that are familiar with the agriculture pipeline, this sort of parody can prove to be disrespectful and frustrating. While for those of us who are new to understanding the food production landscape and the players, a parody such as this which throws a veil over the industry can lead to major misinformation and confusion.

In response, here’s my attempt to illuminate¬† some of the real life faces of the farming industry. There’s no Buck Marshall here…

1. Who the heck is the Industrial Food Image Bureau (IFIB)… in real life

Sometimes it helps to put a face to a name, but unfortunately, Chipotle has given us Buck, the President of IFIB, as a representative of the organizations that are the face of agriculture. These organizations range from Communications firms like MorganMyers whose employees have either grown up on farms or in rural America, to organizations like the Illinois Farm Families, a coalition of farm families that are opening their gates to consumers who want to know more about farming practices. Take a look…

Illinois Farm Family: The Jeschke's

Illinois Farm Family: The Jeschke’s

 

Illinois Farm Families : The Webel Family

Illinois Farm Families : The Webel Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Eeek! The Antibiotic Cover Up!

The mini series also brings up a concern that continues to run unchecked. The belief that farmers are incorporating excessive use of antibiotics in raising their livestock and rendering humans resistant to antibiotics. In fact, when I inquired of Katie Hagenbuch, an Illinois Pork Farmer, as to whether or not she is using more antibiotics on her farm due to the close proximity of her enclosed piggies, she responded with the following:

“On our farm, we only treat sick animals. At any given time, we have roughly 10,000 pigs on the farm (separated into two different barns). The pigs live with us for approximately 4 months. Over the course of the 4 months, we usually treat less than 20 animals with antibiotics… which is only .2% of all our animals. Now, that number can fluctuate based on the care of the animals. If we ensure that WE follow all biosecurity precautions, we can maintain those numbers even lower…we rarely treat over 20 pigs per 4 month period.”

Hence, farmers of non free-range animals that do treat their illnesses with antibiotics are still good stewards of their livestock.

Oh yeah…and check out this lovely photo of Katie and her family:

Illinois Farm Families: The Hagenbuchs

Illinois Farm Families: The Hagenbuchs

3. Cage Free does not equal Care Free

The mini series also goes on to shed light on cage free animals as the basis for sustainable farming. However, our dear friend Katie also shared that on her farm, “she doesn’t see health issues as a result of indoor housing and close proximity to other pigs.” She went on to say that “many of the diseases that pigs used to carry (and that caused food illness issues, like trichinosis) are nearly eradicated…those diseases stemmed from exposure to wild animals like deer and raccoons. On our farm, bio-security (keeping the pigs healthy from “outside” things we might bring in on our clothing or shoes) is key. You must shower in order to enter our barns.”

or for visitors like yours truly, you must be covered from head to toe…

IMG_8385

Momma Mina Sporting “The Uniform”

 

4. Hormone Boost

While the series is meant to be a parody, viewers can’t help but pick up on compelling phrases like “she’ll be as jacked up on hormones as the rest of the cows” and “milk from cows with cancer.” These little nuggets of misinformation are like adding rocks to a quarry of consumer confusion. Remember this image of hormones from a previous Momma Mina post which illustrates the miniscule amount of hormonal difference between conventionally raised cattle (1.9 nanograms) and organically raised cattle (1.4 nanograms). The jar furthest to the right is representative of a birth control pill (20,000 nanograms).

IMG_0700

M&M visual of hormone dosages compliments of the Larson Farm.
Left to Right: Organic, Conventional, Baked Potato, Birth Control Pill

Well, similarly, hormones in dairy cows are still much lower than those produced by the human body. In fact, Dr. Ann Macrina, Senior Instructor at Penn States College of Agricultural Sciences, was quoted as stating the following:

Yes! The science behind today’s conventional farming speaks volumes, but it becomes increasingly difficult to get the real answers behind food production when you have the “noise” of companies like Chipotle drowning out the real answers with their million dollar agendas.

In fact, no one benefits from an exaggerated response to agriculture such as what is evident in this mini series. Unaware consumers are made fearful and confused, while Chipotle’s messaging loses credibility from those who are familiar with the industry. And yet, even with the confusion that ensues from the widespread viewing of this show, the biggest damage is that which is enacted upon the employees of Chipotle, one of which responded by saying “Chipotle spent 1 million to attack the agriculture industry for not doing things the way Chipotle does, but they keep the majority of their workers, the ones busting their humps to make your burrito everyday, at just above minimum wage. It’s a slap in the face to see your company put more value in the marketing then the people.”

How do you feel about high-priced marketing aimed to influence your food purchases under the veil of social change? Are Chipotle’s antics simply revealing their propensity for hypocrisy?

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5 Comments

  1. Fran Moore

    March 20, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Thank you Mina for your voice of reason in the wilderness of media hype. So glad you’ve gotten answers to your questions from the actual source. And thanks for sharing what you’ve found out with your blog followers. Keep up the good work. (and CUTE girls!)

  2. Mandy

    March 20, 2014

    Post a Reply

    I love this. It was so well-written and best of all it wasn’t written by anyone in the agriculture sector! I know it gets to be really difficult to wade through the acres and acres of backlash that the ag industry receives from consumers due to campaigns like this one from Chipotle and for some reason no matter how much those of us who work in Ag try to put the real facts out there, it is often ignored! Thank you for being such a thoughtful consumer! :)

  3. Thanks for the feedback Fran and Mandy. It’s definitely been an interesting journey to discovery. Like most consumers, I have a healthy dose of skepticism, but this process has taught me not to let it stop there. What were your initial thoughts on the Chipotle series?

    • Mandy

      March 21, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Initially I didn’t even want to bother to watch the videos because of all the anti-Chipotle hype going around. I was afraid I would be extremely upset and spend the next several days ranting and raving. But when I finally forced myself to watch the videos I was decidedly let down by Chipotle’s attempt at satire regarding “industrial agriculture”. I almost couldn’t make it through them because it didn’t hold my attention. Maybe that is because I am personally involved in agriculture and know that it doesn’t look like what Chipotle wants to say it looks like. I can understand where consumers get lost though because Ag is such a large and complex system. The so-called “Big Ag” companies often receive the products they sell from contract growers, which are in fact small farms that produce under a companies umbrella which is the same process that companies like Chipotle use when getting products from their producers. Agriculture has a long way to go to becoming more transparent but I was really not impressed by this satirical attempt.

  4. angelajones3949

    March 21, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Well written. I am so glad to hear the odd voice of reason in the sea of misinformation! I can’t help but thinking this series is 100% a marketing attempt targeted to the portion of the population who take all these food scare tactics at face value. Chipotle is incredibly irresponsible and it saddens me that more people don’t see through their campaign.

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