Come with me… for a quick snack… from the world of Chipotle’s imagination!

So this creative little advertising film is making the social media rounds and earning kudos from food activists fighting Big Ag:

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chili plant ablaze

A chili plant ablaze with fruit in our suburban yard

It is a lovely, and lovingly put together film indeed, and the kudos are definitely well earned by the creative team at Moonbot Studios who created it. As many have noted, it is visually beautiful, accompanied by a haunting re-imagination of a classic song (Pure Imagination) from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and full of pathos both for the “food” animals being processed in the factory, and the farmer/factory-worker who is the protagonist and surrogate for us watching what the factory does, and for Chipotle which seems to offer an alternative. That it is an advertisement for a fast-food chain which wants to set itself apart from the rest of the pack, only sneaks up on us late in the film – and some (like my daughter) are put off by the final cut to smartphones showing some video game version, presumably, of this scary factory farm (Scarecrow).

As ads and commercials go, this is surely one of the most creative ones in recent memory, especially since it is offering a critique of Big Ag and the food processing industry that has so much of our global food production in its sights if not its claws right now. Many of us want to break the stranglehold of Monsanto/Cargill/Tyson et al which grows stronger by the day, gobbling up farms, and communities, animals and habitats, and biodiversity (the particular concern here among us Many of us hunger for better choices of food in the market, especially among the fast food outlets which form the primary source of nutrition for an increasing number of people across the planet. And we can use allies from all corners, including corporations who want to change things.

It is fascinating, therefore, to see Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has grown into a massive restaurant chain (1400 stores), thanks in no small part to McDonalds (yes, that McDonalds, which would seem to be amongst the targets of the above film, was a major investor in Chipotle from 1998-2006), position itself as such a strong alternative to the factory-farmed-and-processed fast food experience. See the Food With Integrity section of Chipotle’s website for all the proclamations they make about how they do things differently (with Integrity!) and are trying to change the way the fast food business works. And more power to them for doing all of these good things, despite some dubious passages (involving immigrant labor) in their own history. In taking this position, Chipotle is also giving us enough assurances via their website and this advert for consumers to be able to hold it accountable if they don’t keep their promises. We need more corporations to do the right thing, and the popularity of this video may help move the conversation forward.

I do wonder about a few things in the film, though.

Isn’t it convenient that the farmer/factory-worker (our protagonist) who is so saddened by the sight of the cow with the ear-tag heading for the factory chute, happens to have his own little patch of land and home where he can grow all the vegetables to put into the tacos he sells back in the city later? Must be nice for him to still have access to land that hasn’t been taken over and devastated by Big Ag. What brought him to that factory job in the first place, if he still has such a productive farm? And what a bummer of a commute between his oasis of a home to the big city surrounded by a post-apocalyptic hellscape! His rediscovery of the bright red chili and the other produce on his farm almost reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s classic short story “Good Taste”. Our food processing industry hasn’t quite reached those science fictional depths yet, but not for lack of trying!

Also, while it is nice to see him cheerfully chop up the chile and lettuce and all the other vegetables to lovingly put together the food that entices customers away from the factory-processed “100% beef-ish” substances – what about the delicious carnitas and barbacoa and chicken which are also major draws on Chipotle’s menu? Were the scenes of his humanely slaughtering his beloved cow (Bessie?), ceremonially slicing off steaks from her flanks, and lovingly grilling her tender flesh, cut out due to concerns the film may not merit a PG rating? I guess some things we don’t really want our children to see, even as we want to be honest about where our food comes from…

Finally, on behalf of my fellow Coyote Jennifer of The Corvid Blog, I have to ask both Chipotle and the Moonbot creative team: What the heck did a crow ever do to you to make you cast it in such a darkly villainous role??!! Crows are cool, and they would love some healthy food choices too, thank you very much!

A robust looking House Crow

“What did a crow ever do to you, Chipotle?” Asks this Indian House Crow.

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