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How Should Ag Respond To Chipotle's Negative Campaigns?

How Should Ag Respond To Chipotle's Negative Campaigns?

It’s no secret that I’ve been critical of Chipotle’s marketing campaigns. I believe in voting with my dollar, so I don’t support any companies, celebrities or organizations that are anti-animal agriculture. To me, Chipotle fits that bill because of its slanted campaigns against modern meat production. So, if I have a hankering for a burrito, I get it elsewhere.

I’ve taken Chipotle to task a number of times in this blog for the way it unfairly denigrates conventional meat production in order to sell its products. Here are a few of my past blogs on the topic:

Chipotle Changes Its Tune On Beef

Chipotle Continues To Use Fear To Sell Its Burritos

Should Ag Make Such A Fuss About Negative Media Attention?

Chipotle Gearing Up For Second Attack On Modern Agriculture

Of course, our industry is made up of individuals, and we don’t all think alike on every topic. In fact, one reader, Wayne Vanderwert, doesn’t agree with my stance on the burrito chain and took the time to write me about his thoughts. And I appreciate the feedback. In essence, he thinks my complaints against Chipotle are unwarranted because the chain is just taking advantage of a consumer-driven niche, and it’s a production opportunity that beef producers should work to fill rather than condemn. Here is his note:


I write in response to you and others who have written critically about Chipotle Mexican Grill’s (CMG) “Farmed and Dangerous” marketing campaign.

Almost all marketing, in some form, bashes the competition. In fact, on many occasions I’ve sat with members of your publication’s advertising salesforce who take the competitor’s readership numbers to task. In my mind there is a thin line between saying my product is better than yours or saying your product is not as good as mine.

A short time ago, you applauded the M&M jars to demonstrate estrogen activity in foods. Do you see the irony…the cabbage folks could say “Why do they have to bash our product to market beef, and just weeks ahead of St. Patrick’s Day?”

CMG’s marketing is a satire; it’s meant to poke fun and use exaggerated symbolism to make a point. Their marketing team monitors the Internet; the livestock media’s response only serves to bolster their marketing plans. A few months ago, CMG announced that they could not source enough natural beef to meet their demand, the beef industry cheered. Really, there is demand for a product that we can’t meet and we cheer and defend our own failure rather than get to work to meet that demand. What kind of business can survive with this attitude?

The fact remains that CMG is a successful company that is in-tune with consumer trends and is keeping beef, pork and poultry products in front of a young consuming public. In today’s market that amounts to swimming upstream on the behalf of the meat industry. Silly as it may seem, giving consumers what they want appears to be a business model that works.

Perhaps the biggest danger in all of this is that your message helps to solidify anti-consumer sentiment, the “by god, they’ll eat what we produce” mentality that prevails with TOO MANY beef producers. I suspect in the coming years that this will do more to economically unravel the beef industry than HSUS will ever be able to accomplish.

BEEF needs to the fountain of fresh ideas, innovation and leadership development to help this industry thrive by providing what consumers want, not a musty shelve in the library with old ideas, supper table complaining and stubborn reluctance to change that will hasten our demise.

Somebody needed to say this…

Wayne Vanderwert


I appreciate Vanderwert’s comments on this topic, and I think he presents a good argument for all of us to consider. Interestingly, I saw a Facebook post from someone who had listened to Temple Grandin speak earlier this week. Grandin’s response to Chipotle’s “Farmed and Dangerous” videos was that they were “funny.”

But there are a few points in Vanderwert’s response that I would like to rebut. First, I’m not a proponent of bashing one segment of agriculture to promote another. However, he does make a fine point that by comparing beef to cabbage, or beef to chicken, I’m doing exactly that. My intention wasn’t to denigrate cabbage but to put beef’s profile in better perspective by comparing it to a leafy green vegetable most folks would consider safe, wholesome and nutritious.

Similarly, I truly believe that conventionally raised beef is safe, wholesome and nutritious, and many studies back up that contention. Beef, in my opinion, is a superfood that can hold its own against other foods, and I’m proud that I have a part in raising beef.

Second, my intent wasn’t to cheer when Chipotle could no longer fill demand for natural beef in its burritos. Actually, I think it’s awesome that the demand for natural beef is growing because it represents more opportunity for beef producers! The question I was asking in reference to Chipotle’s announcement was regarding how Chipotle could in good conscience serve to its customers a product (conventionally raised beef) that it works so hard to paint as unsafe?

Again, I appreciate the feedback and Vanderwert’s willingness to let me share his email with readers. I don’t mind being taken to task for my opinions. That’s what blogs are for, after all. I love the give and take of the BEEF online community. So, what do you think? How would you respond to Chipotle’s marketing campaigns? Do you think Vanderwert presents a good argument? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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