Sustainable, Local, Organic Suffering: The Chipotle Scam

Chipotle is truly shameless. The fast food company—once owned by McDonalds– has convinced millions of consumers that a burrito bomb stuffed with almost twice the calories of a Big Mac is an example of “food with integrity.” It would seem the epitome of absurdity to think that a meal contaminated with more than a full day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat could be good for you. But Chipotle pulls it off. How? They play their cards right. They play the “local” card; they play the “sustainable” card; and they play the “welfare” card. This royal flush of cynicism hides everything that’s wrong with the western, meat-and-dairy based diet.  That manhole-sized tortilla wrap certainly helps, too.

The company’s shameless co-opting of the food movement’s rhetoric is as successful as it is unmatched.  Its most recent advertisement deploys an arsenal of socially responsible terms to hit some weird cultural sweet spot between Farmville and Old McDonalds. See it here.

Lost in this dose of bucolic pornography is a very simple truth: any company that profits from steadily increasing sales of animal products is a company that is environmentally irresponsible, detrimental to our health, and indifferent at best to animal welfare.  Chipotle calls its burrito “a foil-wrapped, hand-crafted, local farm supporting, food culture changing cylinder of deliciousness.” I call it a load of suffering wrapped in the worn cloak of sustainability.  And that’s when I’m I feeling generous.


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

3 Responses to Sustainable, Local, Organic Suffering: The Chipotle Scam

  1. Joanna Lucas says:

    I’d say that the “sustainable”, “local”, and “welfare” card is the rhetoric of the animal welfare movement these days, and it is promoted by nearly every animal organization and sanctuary in the US. I am not surprised that Chipotle (among scores of other retailers) has jumped on the welfare wagon—after all, they’re in the business of selling the products of animal misery, not in the business of ending it. What I find intolerable and indefensible is that the animal advocates themselves continue to promote the “humane” farming delusion, and continue to assure “conscientious” consumers that buying the products of butchery from “local”, “family”, “free-range” etc farms, is “a step in the right direction”. Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary is one of very few organizations that has made it a priority to debunk the “humane” farming myth, and that openly opposes all animal use while promoting vegan living as the only solution and the only humane alternative. See “Letter from a Vegan World”.

    • CQ says:

      The beauty of your linked letter, Joanna, is in its truthfulness. Labels (“free range” “rose veal” “sustainable” etc.) are deceptive. They are just words, lacking any meaning other than what we have been trained by our image-conscious, advertising-addicted culture to pretend they mean. A lie told 50 million times is still a lie. Keep debunking as you hunker down in the PPS bunker with the honest animals, Joanna.

      Oh, and James: Yes, you are being mighty generous! Please retain your dignified wording, letting the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks and allowing Chipotle to squirm in shame. 🙂

  2. Tim says:

    So true, local is fantastic, but once they start to use it as an excuse/rationale to resume/continue/increase the production/consumption of animal parts & fluids, it is then that they are actually making our planet a more miserable place, not the opposite. They are then bringing an increased amount of violence against the voiceless into our communities and countrysides, making those areas as despicable and horrific as any factory farm, only this way there’s even less if any oversight, and the barbarism goes unchecked and unobserved. Local plant-based foods production is phenomenal, especially when done in ones own backyard whenever possible, but once violence is brought into the equation, all it’s luster is gone.

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