By now, you have probably all seen several stories about the Chipotle restaurant chain’s video titled “Scarecrow.” As of Thursday morning on YouTube, it had already been viewed more than 5.7 million times.
Initially, I wasn’t going to write anything about this, because I didn’t think there was anything that could be added to what already had been written. It is true that these videos are the worst kind of fear mongering, they are rife with misinformation and they paint an inaccurate and harmful image of our industry. If you know the truth, if you know the love and passion that American farmers and ranchers feel about their job and their role in feeding the world, it is nauseating. Everyone I know that has watched the video made the decision to never step foot in one of their restaurants again.
The first question I had after watching the video is why anyone would create such a thing? What is their motivation to mislead and persuade people in such a way? Propaganda is nothing new, and has always been justified in a couple of ways, the first being the belief that the cause is right, so that any tactic is justified. Lying, manipulating for a greater good is not wrong, it is the result that matters.
The other motive, while almost identical, is even less altruistic. You manipulate and persuade by creating a false image of something because you have a disdain for the masses, are confident that they can be manipulated, and are in pursuit of your vision, wealth, or power and will use any means ethical or not to achieve your goal.
Chipotle is an interesting company. You might recall that McDonald’s was the majority owner of Chipotle in the beginning. McDonald’s fully divested itself of Chipotle in 2006, and that is when the restaurant chain made the shift to attacking mainstream agriculture.
The results from a financial standpoint have been phenomenal, perplexing stock analysts every step of the way. Chipotle continues to trade at a staggering price to earnings ratio. As of yesterday, its price to earnings ratio was 44.66; compare that to McDonald’s at 18.11 or Yum Brands at 24.09. If you had the foresight to buy Chipotle in September of 2008, you would have seen your investment increase by 624%!
Their propaganda might not be factual, but it sure has been economically rewarding. Chipotle didn’t create the market; HSUS and the other anti-meat, anti-modern agriculture groups did that. Chipotle just exploited the opportunity they created. I have no idea whether or not the management team at Chipotle actually believes their propaganda or are cynically just doing it for monetary gain. In the end, their motivation is irrelevant, but it makes me feel better to think they are misinformed, rather than simply exploiting consumers by tearing down the people who wake up each day with the goal of feeding the world in a sustainable way.
What is relevant is that this video, while slightly different, is virtually a carbon copy of so many others that I’ve seen—the factory farming, the animals abused, the factory smoke stacks, the hormones and chemicals, the needles, the cruelty, etc. The narrative is so consistent that it is frightening. The opposition has done a tremendous job of finding their key points, and driving them home again and again.
If I was not involved in agriculture, if I was disconnected from modern agriculture and I didn’t have intimate knowledge of our production system, I have to believe I would think there was truth to their narrative. I probably would feel good about biting into my Chipotle burrito, instead of gagging on the misinformation as I presently do.
We have our work cut out for us.
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