Did You See This Chipotle Ad?

It aired during the Grammy Awards. The next day, McDonald’s announced that it would require its pork producers to end the use of gestation crates for sows — you know, those lovely “stalls” that allow a pregnant sow to only stand up, lie down, or eat for the full 115 days of her pregnancy. A week later, the Bon Apetit Management Company (BAMCO) committed to entirely phasing out the use of both gestation crates for sows and battery cages for hens by 2015.

BAMCO, while not as large as McDonald’s (whose main supplier is Smithfield), still serves more than 3 million pounds of pork each year. This is good news, folks!

Grist has argued that the McDonald’s commitment may just be a case of “porkwashing” since the corporation didn’t actually commit to any kind of timeline for reaching it’s new goals. But ever since its CEO served on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm and Animal Production (which put together this report after witnessing the inside practices of industrial farming first hand), BAMCO has a track record of attempting to get rid of the most awful practices of industrial farming.

Regardless of whether or not you think McDonald’s will follow through on its word, you’ve got to admit that it’s pretty amazing that two of the largest purchasers of industrial pork in this country have now called for an end to one of the most heinous and unjustifiable practices common to the industrial hog farm.

According to Marion Nestle (author of the eye-opening book Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health), sow crates have no real justification:

During the course of the investigations that led to this [Pew Commission] report, we visited an industrial hog farm in Kansas where I got a first-hand look at sow gestation crates in (in)action.

I knew about sow crates, of course, but even so was completely unprepared for the sight of a pregnant sow confined between bars that allowed her only to stand up, lie down, and eat—during the entire 115 days of her pregnancy.

When we asked why this was necessary, we got this answer: it is easier for the managers.

  • Workers do not have to be trained in animal husbandry.
  • Cleaning chores are easier.
  • Feed can be measured.
  • The sows cannot fight.
  • The sows cannot kill their babies.

Seeing my evident distress, Bill Niman, who was also on the Commission, offered an antidote. The next day, we drove 100 miles or so and visited Paul Willis’s hog farm.

Willis claims that his relatively free-range sows (confined in fields by electric fences) are nearly as productive. His animals get to roll in the mud. They do not fight and do not kill their piglets.

Yes, their meat ends up on the plate no matter how the animals are raised. But means matter as much as ends.

Kindness to animals is a mark of humanity.

Getting rid of sow crates is a good idea, and the sooner the better.

Isn’t it interesting that a short, 2 minute film that aired during the Grammy Awards was more immediately influential than an in-depth, 122 page investigative report commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts?

I think it speaks to our culture, and how we need to disseminate our Real Food message on a popular level. Films such as Food, Inc., Fresh, and Farmageddon certainly help, but apparently so do commercials! In fact, commercials may be even more effective.

Watch the Chipotle ad:

What are your thoughts? Do you think McDonald’s is porkwashing? Are you, like me, excited about the possibility of running highly visible ads tackling major issues like the labeling of GMOs, the over-use of antibiotics in industrial farming, and more?

(top photo by caruba, lower photo by farm sanctuary)


  1. Anna says

    Do you know if Chipotle’s claims of sourcing their meat from humanely raised animals is true? I and my husband have always enjoyed their food and are sad that there isn’t one in our city (Corpus Christi, TX).

    • KristenM says

      Anna — Nationwide, all of Chipotle’s pork is humanely raised. Various other locations have varying degrees of humanely raised chicken and beef. That’s because of the difficulty involved in finding a consistent, growing, and local supply for these meats. While some suppliers can provide Chipotle with *some* humanely raised meats, not many can supply it regularly and in the quantities necessary. The individual Chipotle location will disclose which of its meats are sourced well.

      • says

        Which is part of the problem. Chipotle wants to source specific cuts, at near market prices. Without a change in price or sourcing habits, it’s pork washing.

    • TxFarmGirl says

      I can tell you that in Houston, TX, they claim that they buy their beef locally from a rancher in the Houston area. We are part of only 5-6 Ranchers in Houston that sell direct without going through an auction house and have the state labeling requirements to sell to resturants. Since there are so few of us doing this, of corse we know each other. None of us sell to Chipotle’s. The head of Urban Harvest told us that Chipotle’s clained they purchased beef from us. Altough we have cantacted them, they never returned any calls or messages. I think there are some investigations on going about this matter. Don’t trust the ads is all I have to say. It is a marketing ploy and is not proved.

  2. says

    What is especially good about this is it is being done with the free market rather than ham handed government regulations. We have raised our pigs for nearly a decade without the need for gestating or farrowing crates. Our pigs roam our pastures using the same managed rotational grazing techniques as we use for sheep – this improves the soil over time and is much like the natural grazing patterns of herds in the wild. Doing this also results in natural pest and parasite control – the buggers are left behind to die in the manure before the livestock return for the next cycle. We raise thousands of pigs on pasture. It works. I’m glad to see that more animals will get these benefits. We raise them for food and there is no point in making their lives less while they’re here.

  3. Suzanne says

    Yes, I wish they would. It would be a heck of a lot better than seeing drug commercials for drugs that don’t even work every second.

  4. Marcin says

    Porkwashing in its full glory. It’s like McD promising healthy, wholesome meals. And not committing to a date, well how convenient!

  5. Danielle says

    I’m confused- from my understanding of internet searches…McDonalds no longer owns Chipotle. So if this is the case, why are they being quoted in reference to this Chipotle commercial? Any thoughts?

    • KristenM says

      You’re right that McDonald’s doesn’t own Chipotle anymore. McDonald’s is mentioned for the same reason that BAMCO is — they’re responding to public pressure that was accelerated by the airing of the Chipotle ad.

    • says

      Companies have to start somewhere. If a certain company (like say, McDonalds) has a whole bunch of bad practices, fixing them all in one blow isn’t going to happen. It would cause too much chaos. But if they can fix them one at a time, or a few at a time, and if they keep doing that, eventually, they’ll have a healthier company (in so many ways). So yeah, any step is a good step.

      I don’t think Chipotle is pork-washing, but, yeah, McDonalds may be. If pressure stays on them though, they’ll change.

  6. says

    I generally avoid all fast food, but that commercial really managed to change the way I look at Chipolte in a mere two minutes – amazing!

    • Allie says

      Chipotle is the only ‘fast food’ chain our family can visit. Everything else makes someone ill: headaches, gut aches, you name it.

      Now can we crack down on MSG?!

  7. Maryjane says

    You are exactly right, that commercials would be much more effective in educating and influencing public opinion. Few people read much anymore, especially not 122-page investigative reports, but almost everyone watches TV. Commercials are effective — that’s why corporations spend billions of dollars on them.
    But commercials are expensive. Who will pay for the Real Food advertising?

  8. Tara says

    Thanks for sharing this information–not sure about what McDonald’s will actually do, but glad there’s some pressure being put on them via this great commercial by Chipotle! I hadn’t seen this commercial, and it made me tear up. We can only hope more like this will follow!!

  9. says

    I find it truly amazing that a country like the US has cruelty laws on the books concerning animals and we hate the inhumane ways towards pets by some and yet, we tolerate the way farm animals are raised and kept. How wonderful it would be if laws could be changed to make farm animal practices more humane. I hope these companies who are claiming to be concerned come through and aren’t just trying to “look good” as a publicity stunt.

  10. Loriel says

    When I saw this ad I was so unbelievably happy! I think it may be a start of a domino affect of good things happening. even if it is just plain awareness of what is going on an what is right and wrong. My husband jokingly made fun of me because of how happy I was! It’s time we start to make a change!

  11. Veetmaya Julietta Cochrane via Facebook says

    ditto @ Brenda …. on what level did they ‘alter’ public awareness … whats going on is immensely complex and requires quite a lot to understand and fathom it ou t…

  12. Laura Greiner via Facebook says

    i love the commercial but hate that Chipotle uses GMOs and not all of their meat is “natural”

  13. Lee Carlisle via Facebook says

    sometimes when they do have an idea, they don’t care. Some actually think it’s a good thing to “thin out the heard” They think this way until directly affected. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Kimberley Glashagel-Pierce via Facebook says

    Funny thing is…Chipotle used to be a subsidiary of McDonalds. Mcdonalds owned 85% of its voting shares up until 2006.

  15. says

    I think an anti anti-fat ad would do wonders. Eat eggs and have a glass of whole milk for breakfast instead of Lucky Charms and skim milk or a bagel and orange juice (in other words, sugar on top of sugar with no fat to regulate your blood glucose levels) and see how much better you feel by lunch time and how you’re not desperate for a fast food burger by dinner! Fat is not bad, but try telling that to anyone who’s been force-fed conventional diet advice their entire lives.

    • TexMo says

      Robyn be careful with that point of view. It is very easy for the industrial food machine to keep steam rolling its point of view over the populace and especially us REAL food connoisseurs if we allow ourselves to be divided. It would be like someone who hates all milk and is not a consumer of milk just acquiescing and saying, “I don’t care because I don’t drink raw milk.” The same could be said of grass fed beef, eggs, fruits, or vegetables. We all have our preferences. I really do not eat grain anymore, but I would still rather not have genetically modified corn, wheat, etc. showing up in my meal.

  16. says

    @Laura, When I asked about this at Chipotle, I was told that it is a matter of access, not philosophy. Chipotle buys in large quantities, and right now, it is very difficult to get sufficient quantities of completely non GMO and completely holistically raised meats. Whole Foods has the same issues trying to provide sufficient grass-fed meats and pasture-raised dairy/eggs, etc. for their customers. The change has to come from the ground up, literally — In addition to restaurants and retailers providing greater access to better foods, we need people who are willing to get out there and -grow/raise- these foods… and we need to be able to shut down operations by companies that jeopardize the ability to sustain things like “non-GMO” because of issues of cross-pollination from nearby farms that DO grow GMOs, etc — and the only way to do that is to get GMOs out of our food production system… so we have a LOT of work to do. In the meantime, I’ll continue to support the companies that DO try to start that ball rolling, even if they’re not perfect yet.

  17. says

    (BTW, if ANY portion of a purchase from a company like Chipotle that may end up on a consumer’s plate contains GMOs or conventionally raised meats, whether or not a portion of what is being purchased IS naturally raised or non-GMO, the entire batch is considered “conventional/GMO” to make sure that there is no chance that they can be accused of misleading labeling.)

  18. Cindy Pittman Santa Ana via Facebook says

    I would love to see more commercials like that one. Maybe someone could apply for a grant or apply to “Lucky Napkin” to win money to apply to an ad campaign. I’ve tried!!

  19. says

    I don’t have a TV, so thank you for making me aware of this commercial. I find the prospect of making the public aware a great idea. If we have to use commercials to do it, then so be it. I am amazed just talking to my customers and coworkers at how completely out of touch most people are with their food. They have no idea where it comes from, they just want it to taste good. We need anti-GMO commercials in a hurry!

  20. says

    I’ll fess up–I did cry when I saw this! Beautifully done, I had the kids watch it and explained the truth about the state of food. Although they’ve heard bits and pieces before, this was on their level and MADE SENSE to them. They get it now why Mommy says no to fast food. If this taught toddlers, surely it could make a difference in the millions of adults who saw it!

    I posted this on our store’s facebook page too. I’m interested in the comments it will invoke.

  21. Ian Rubin says

    My wife and I agree that the power of the ad was that it “showed” rather than “telling” us how things could be, not banging us over the head for 90 minutes or 122 pages with how bad it is and then explaining in more words than pictures need, what the solution is or could be. Also, words convey different feelings and connotations. The ad had a very amazing, inviting feel to it that words just cant match. Brilliant marketing deserves cuddos and we could learn from it to get better at putting our messages across in a way that is more effective to changing how people think, feel and act toward food.

  22. Wade Gwin says

    I don’t know if anyone is aware of this, but Chipotle uses some type of soy product (probably soybean oil) in all the meat except Carnitas, as well as other add-ins. If you would like to see a list of all the possible allergens in their food, Chipotle provides this. Go to their website, look under “Menu,” and then “Special Diet Information.”

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