Disclaimer: This writer has eaten Chipotle for the last three days straight
Above you can watch Chipotle's newest PR piece. It's an animated short about a sad Scarecrow who works at some sort of futuristic factory farming-esque place and it's gotten over 500,000 views very rapidly. All in all, a big success for Chipotle, but just how honest are they being? Obviously, the video isn't about straightforward facts, but if you look closely, you can see that there is some implied specific claims to this bit of PR magic.
Let's go over some of the imagery in the video and see if we can't dissect what Chipotle is trying to convey, and just how accurate they're being with regard to their own treatment of animals. We'll also use a bit of copy from their App Store app, The Scarecrow, which is what the video is also promoting, in addition to the burrito factory itself. Of course, it all boils down to one big advertisement for Chipotle.
First off, just so we're all on the same page. The Scarecrow = Chipotle.
Note the Chipotle logo. Yes, it's fairly obvious, but you know, just in case there's anyone being stubborn about it.
Are Chipotle Cows Really Not Kept In Cages? And is their Beef Really 100%?
Short answer: No cows anywhere are really kept in cages, but Chipotle claims their cows are raised in pasture, which is superior to how most cows are kept which is in much more cramped 'feedlots.' Regarding 100% beef, 85% of Chipotle cows are antibiotic free, but 15% aren't. Therefore, on average, their beef is 15% 'beef-ish,' their own word. Still, no Chipotle meat contains rGBH and that's a major plus. Overall, they're being more "truthy" than truthful regarding these claims.
Excerpt from Chipotle's Description of the "The Scarecrow" Game, Available in the iTunes Store
Still from the New Video
Still #2 from the New Video
First off, cows in general aren't raised in cages. So the image of the cow in a box being pumped full of who-knows-what is already a bit disingenuous. Cows are raised on feedlots, and that's by PETA's own description. The one exception is veal, but Chipotle doesn't serve veal so it's not really relevant here. Still, it's a bit of a misnomer to paint cows as being kept in tiny boxes; this just doesn't happen. The animals are kept tightly packed, you might even say inhumanely, but of all the animals to make this suggestion, cows are the worst. Pigs and chickens are kept in much more poor conditions. To give you an idea, here's an article that explains cows being kept in pasture versus feedlots, and while feedlots are pretty bad, Chipotle is intentionally painting a harsher picture than is accurate by using this image.
Meantime, Chipotle used to source their beef 100% without antibiotics, but recently supply shortages have led them to take 15% of their beefy goodness from suppliers who use antibiotics on their cows to treat disease. So, technically, on average, 15% of their beef is 'beef-ish,' at least in the last year.
In short, Chipotle is better than most anyone else in the business, but they're not meeting standards that they were once able to and are being a bit cocky with this recent move. While I am a big fan, Chipotle isn't quite the perfect company they're painting themselves to be. A more accurate version of the video would have the scarecrow taking 15% of the meat in his burrito (shown at the end) from the Crow factory.