By Si Cook
I read an article last week about how Chipotle Grill is promoting the natural, organic ingredients that they use to make the majority of their menu items. “That’s nice,” I thought—until I learned the rest of the story about their marketing tactics.
It seems Chipotle has developed and launched a marketing campaign designed to drive customers to their restaurants through fear and mistrust of modern agriculture practices. They developed a folksy, animated video featuring a song by Coldplay and performed by Willie Nelson.
Through this video and other methods of advertising, they are making the case that modern production methods are cruel, destructive and unhealthy. They revive the tired old argument that production agriculture should revert back to the methods used 70 years ago. They suggest we deny the agriculture industry the use of technology and economy of scale. (Wonder how the Chipotle chain grew to more than 1,000 stores nationwide?)
The methods Chipotle suggests sound great, but they are not—to use another popular word here—sustainable on a global level. We will shortly face the challenge of providing food and fiber to roughly 9 billion people worldwide. I’m not a scientist or mathematician, but I can tell you that producing food and fiber for the daily needs of this many people is simply not possible using the technology and production methods of 70 years ago—when the world population was less than 3 billion. It’s kind of like asking the auto industry to go back to making each car by hand, or suggesting that we do away with our word processors and go back to using manual typewriters—without expecting any decrease in production.
I have no problem with Chipotle, or anyone else for that matter, promoting natural and/or organic ingredients. This is an honest and viable market that many consumers respond positively to every day.
I do take exception however, when any entity blatantly disparages other modern agricultural practices for the sake of market share. Let’s be clear here: modern agricultural practices and the technology used to implement them allow the agricultural community to provide safe and affordable food and fiber to an exploding population.
Both human and animal health has steadily increased, and we are well prepared to address expected continued population growth. Suggesting that the advances we have made in agriculture during the past 70 years are somehow evil and destructive is simply irresponsible.
Si Cook has been involved with animal husbandry and the livestock industry for more than 40 years. He also serves as Organization director of Texas Farm Bureau.