Chipotle and the Sustainable Food Movement: Essential or Trendy?

If you know me at all, you know that there are few things I love as much as a Chipotle burrito.  And if you know that I live in a city two hours away from the nearest Chipotle, you know that I would go to great lengths (and I have) to wrap my hands around a heavenly, spicy, all-inclusive steak burrito from the kitchen of the magical pepper.

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One of the things Chipotle has become known for in the food industry is what they call “food with integrity.” They illustrate this with a video set to the music of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” covered by country legend Willie Nelson.

“Cultivate A Burritoful World”

As a national restaurant franchise, Chipotle assures customers of their eco-friendly practices, and raising animals without hormones or antibiotics. For over a decade and into the foreseeable future, they promise to respect the environment, to respect animals, and to respect local family farmers with whom they do business.

It certainly seems like a breath of fresh air, especially for the food industry and all the flack it’s received (a la Food Inc. and pink slime accusations).  Don’t get me wrong; I’m all in favor of this kind of corporate integrity, but it doesn’t impact my love for the taste of their burrito (except perhaps for the designation of free-range, grass-fed beef).

Slogans to Deceive?

At the same time, I’m not blind to the notion that corporations have and will intentionally brand themselves with exaggerations or blatant lies, just to convince the consumer market to buy their products.

Could it be that Chipotle is riding the wave of the “sustainable food” movement to boost sales and reach? How do we know? Is there verified independent research?

I’m certainly not in favor of neglecting the environment and local farmers and mistreating animals. Sometimes I buy local when I can. I used to work on a cattle farm, so I’d like to think I have a sincere respect for local family farmers and their grass-fed beef. I love being outdoors, but I’m not a full-on tree-hugger (maybe just a side hug).

Even if Chipotle’s eco-friendly claims are bogus, it would still be far too difficult to deny such savory, succulent burrito.

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Does the “sustainable food” focus make sense to you, or is it just a fad that will eventually go away? Does this sort of branding make you like Chipotle more or less?

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image credit: Chipotle.com

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4 responses to “Chipotle and the Sustainable Food Movement: Essential or Trendy?

  1. First, only Coldplay should sing that song. Second, I would be shocked if the primary reason Chipotle was doing this was to increase profits. That doesn’t make it bad, that’s what businesses do. I’m all for some businesses doing organic food and grass fed beef. To be honest, for the most part, that stuff just tastes better. To be honest though, it’s kind of a weird thing for me to think about treating animals really well before we decapitate them. As far as buying local, that isn’t really the answer. Here’s an interesting article via Freakonomics: http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/11/14/the-inefficiency-of-local-food/ . Also, I have heard, from a food geneticist and a couple of farmers, that without genetically modified food, pesticides, mass cattle feeding and slaughtering, we wouldn’t be able to feed the world. That stuff makes things so much more efficient and without it we wouldn’t have enough arable land and food prices would skyrocket so that the poor would starve to death.

    Bryan – Has the supreme court really verified that a lie is valuable speech or just that people have the freedom to lie?

    • Agree completely that only Coldplay should sing the track. I loved the insight Freakonomics shared via their documentary, although unconventional. But now I can only think of how much I still love eating Chipotle burritos. Thanks for commenting and visiting the page.

  2. The U.S Supreme Court has continued to verify that in our country even a lie is considered valuable speech. Ads are a form of speech and for the most part, corporations have the same rights as we do to lie for our own gain. I have become a little wary of taking ads at face value but that is not to say that those ads aren’t still effective. Sometimes it seems we just want to believe what we are told because none of us wish to become hopeless cynics.

    • Bryan, it’s definitely not wise to take ads at face value. Agreed. And I also try to avoid becoming a hopeless cynic, though difficult. I like to think of myself as a realistic idealist. Thanks for reading and sharing.

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