Guys, have you seen the adorable Chipotle short film about a farmer who changes his family farm into a big factory farm, but changes his mind as he looks at the ill-effects of the system? The commercial is adorable, but underneath that, it includes some of the biggest fast food industry issues of today. Check out the commercial here.
What does this commercial mean?
Chipotle is different from other fast food chains. They have 100% antibiotic-free, cage free, vegetarian-fed pigs. They call this naturally raised, and are working on getting to 100% naturally raised for their beef and dairy cattle, as well as pasture-feeding them. They are also in the process of eliminating antibiotics from their chicken.
Clearly, Chipotle is not there yet, and their lack of specificity on how close they are is certainly on purpose, but as opposed to restaurants like McDonald’s, Chipotle is leading the way in terms of sustainable, humane fast food.
Speaking of McDonalds… Perhaps partly in response to Chipotle’s heavy marketing of their naturally-raised food, McDonalds is asking their suppliers of pork to phase out tightly-restricting cages for pregnant sows. These cages exist because pregnant sows become aggressive, but there are better options for keeping them calm.
The plan is to continue working with their major suppliers, who will have plans to phase out the cages by May and implement them by 2017. Burger King, Wendy’s, and Hardees have already started moving away from suppliers that use the gestation crates, showing a trend in the industry. Huge issues in humane treatment of animals and exploitation of workers remain in the fast food industry, but this small change is being regarded as huge by animal rights activists, who think that McDonalds will set an example for the rest of the industry.
Too much credit?
We discussed this issue in my Food Politics class, and though all of us definitely think tightly restricting pregnant sows is a negative thing, we aren’t sure how we feel about McDonalds’s announcement. People are applauding McDonalds for taking such a big initiative, when it seems as if they are a follower on this trend. Chipotle has raised pigs without crates since 2001.
In addition, 2017 is a long ways away, and if regulations come from within a company, who can be sure they are following them? This led people to wonder if all this talk in the fast food industry about sustainability and humane treatment is just for the sake of PR.
It also led to the discussion of the power of the consumer. Clearly, fast food restaurants are noticing that consumers want these reforms in their restaurants. This demand causes changes, or at least promises of changes, in a much more efficient way than government regulation can implement them. For us poli sci kids, that is a bit disheartening. But if the changes are truly made, even if it is just for PR, small steps are happening to take us in the right direction.
How do you feel about the Chipotle commercial and McDonalds’s new maybe-regulations?
Quotation of the week- “The more knowledge people have about the way their food is produced, the more likely it is that their values–and not just "value"–will inform their purchasing decisions.”
-Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Love and Smiles,