National Consumers League

Chipotle beefs up sustainable agriculture efforts

kelsey As if it weren't enough that the restaurant chain Chipotle revolutionized the extremely affordable, locally sourced and 100% delicious fast food meal, now they’re speaking out against the unsustainable and inhumane nature of industrial agriculture. And they’re doing so in the most entertaining way. The satirical series, “Farmed and Dangerous,” calling out big agriculture is set to debut February 17, on Hulu.

When I first heard about this series, I was skeptical. But then it dawned on me that Chipotle does some great things when sourcing their meat and dairy products, holding their producers to higher standards than pretty much every other fast food chain.

The 30 minute, four episode, series seeks to raise consumers’ awareness about industrial farming issues by taking a very serious, grim subject and satirically highlighting its biggest problems. This “values integration” raises awareness about issues the company combats and in return consumers view Chipotle in a positive light and will eat there in an opportunity to support their efforts.

It’s not Chipotle’s first stab at this blended marketing approach they’re calling ‘strategic entertainment.’ The Scare Crow (2013), Back to the Start (2011) and Meat Without Drugs (2012) are all short films about the disturbing tactics used by large industrial farms.  As a matter of fact, this approach isn’t new at all.  Proctor & Gamble created “soap operas” as a means of cross promotion; as did Ovaltine with shows like Captain Midnight back in the 1950s.  The return to such marketing tactics is most likely driven by consumers ability to skip commercials altogether, with technology like DVR and Netflix.  Even Whole Foods is slated to be releasing a new reality series called “Dark Rye.”

The series mentions Chipotle only once, as a means of debunking the current rumor that McDonald’s owns a controlling stake in the company. The share was indeed held by McDonald’s for eight years but they divested in 2006.

Full disclosure, the episodes will air on a Chipotle branded Hulu account but maybe they deserve to claim these efforts. So often we see commercials with entertaining but meaningless messages. Chipotle could have just as easily spent their money on a thirty second super bowl ad, but instead they chose to spread a message they believe in while getting the most possible bang for their buck. I know I’ll be watching.