Summary: Using Pixar-esque animation and Willie Nelson’s twang, this Chipotle commercial examines the development of our food production system. The commercial-story begins with images of pigs in an open pasture, which are then subjected to larger and more mechanized farming practices that lead to a highly industrialized food production system. It then shows a farmer (who evokes images of Middle America) as he slowly realizes the toxic effects, both on body and planet, of rationally commodifying agriculture and livestock. Set to Coldplay’s “The Scientist” (heartbreakingly sung by Willie Nelson), the main lyrics reference going “back to the start” and a return to earlier farming practices. Within the linear segment, we learn that the said farmer’s consciousness-raising leads to cage-free farming, thereby allowing him, his family, and their farm animals to lead a more socially conscious–and seemingly happy–existence. This clip can bring to life theories of consumption, aiding sociologists-in-training in conceptualizing concepts including Weber’s theories on rationalization, George Ritzer’s theories on McDonaldization, and Jean Baudrillard’s musings on simulacra. It can be useful to spark conversations on the social and environmental impacts of consumption behaviors and the potential impacts of industrial farming practices for human health. Finally, Chipotle’s commercial provides an opportunity to examine the complexities–and sometimes contradictions–of advertising. After a discussion on whether they are prompted (as educated consumers) to frequent Chipotle now that they’ve seen the commercial, the viewer might consider some little known facts and inconsistencies of the fast-food chain. For example, the McDonald’s Corporation was at one time a major investor in Chipotle, though now divested from the Mexican grill. In January 2011, the fast-food chain was in the Minnesota headlines when several locations were hiring undocumented workers, therefore coming to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Once discovered, Chipotle fired the employees, ranging from 350 to 700 people. This begs the question, while ethical treatment is being maintained for farm animals, is ethical treatment being maintained for actual human employees?
Submitted By: Beverly M. Pratt