This article originally appeared on The Daily Pitchfork.
False advertising and marketing claims abound in the food industry, especially when it comes to animal welfare issues. But in a new twist, a bunch of disgruntled workers for a Chipotle supplier have erroneously accused the burrito bowl maker of "putting pigs over people" as a way of increasing pressure on the company for better wages and conditions.
We see this tactic work frequently enough: the manipulative use of media to "shame" corporations. It's therefore not surprising to see the labor movement - which has been decimated over the last 30 years by the effects of neoliberalism and free-trade agreements - latch on to what has turned out to be a popular and cost-effective strategy for gaining the public's attention.
What better way to heighten awareness of important issues, such as the ongoing struggle of fast food workers who are demanding the holy grail of $15/hour wages and the past struggles against child labor in Walmart's and Nike's supply chains?
As the Guardian has just reported, the latest group to go this route are workers employed by Huhtamaki USA, a subsidiary of a Finnish ceramics company. At stake are the burrito bowls that Huhtamaki produces for Chipotle and the pigs who've been thrown into this debate in a weird but telling way. Attempting to use media to shame Chipotle - by association - for an insufficient anthropocentric bias, Huhtamaki workers pleaded: "Chipotle: Put People over Pigs."
While the workers' cause is just, the problem is that their premise is false. What we do not see discussed in the poorly reported Guardian article are the connection between the welfare of workers and the welfare of pigs. This omission is the hallmark of media bias.
What does prioritizing pigs over people have to do with Huhtamaki, you might ask? Excellent question - but don't look to the Guardian for insight. For those who do not peruse it everyday, the Guardian can be a bit chaotic. You might be surprised by how many readers comment on the poor quality of reporting and how infuriating it is to read a headline, click through to the story, and find none of the real issues addressed.
The Guardian is a corporation much like any other and the product it sells is sometimes defective. Here the defect is not only a disconnect between the copy and the headline, but the reporter's failure to investigate the accuracy of the workers' sloppy slogan.
Let's look for the pigs in the article. Where are they? We know they end up as the signature ingredient in Chipotle's popular starch-and-protein belly bomb, which produces blissful associations for hungry office workers on their lunch break. But the article looks no further than the bottom of the burrito bowl.
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