This article originally appeared on The Daily Pitchfork.
Chipotle is a fast food company that talks a big game about sourcing animal products from responsible farms. The company's "food with integrity" slogan assures customers that, "when sourcing meat, we work hard to find farmers and ranchers who are doing things the right way."
But a careful examination of Chipotle's animal welfare rhetoric quickly confirms the lack of any hard commitment to the welfare ideals it so breezily espouses. Without going into a systematic analysis of Chipotle's marketing verbiage, it's quickly apparent that the most common qualifier anchoring Chipotle to factory farming is this: "whenever possible." Yes, Chipotle will "work hard" to support welfare standards "whenever possible."
But these qualifiers have proven meaningless for the once McDonald's-owned company. In 2013, when the supply of antibiotic-free beef dropped, the company allowed factory-farmed antibiotic-laden beef into the supply chain. As this was happening, the company's co-founder was telling the media - who acted as scribes - things such as "The more consumers understand the benefits of eating food from more sustainable sources, the more they're going to expect it from everyone."
A sinister calculation is at work for Chipotle. On the one hand, it waxes rhetorically about its high welfare standards and this rhetoric serves to improve the company's popularity. On the other, this intensified popularity means that Chipotle's demand for meat and dairy will outstrip the supply of meat and dairy available from the farmers it earnestly claims to support.
The upshot is almost criminal: the company benefits financially from a pro-animal welfare reputation while giving the idea a token presence at best in its increasingly expansive supply chain. At the end of the day, if Chipotle needs commodity beef, chicken, or pork, it gets it.
Not terribly far beneath the media scrim, though, some critics are becoming aware of Chipotle's disingenuous dedication to sustainable and humane animal farming. A rancher named Mike Callicrate, for one, has been on a one-man mission to highlight the disparity between Chipotle's rhetoric and reality. He demonstrates with compelling evidence that, as Chipotle was trotting out its "Food with Integrity" program it was also buying standard commodity beef from Australia. Others are following the same scent.
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