It is unlikely very many of you in the agricultural community felt too sorry for the Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant chain when its food safety problems made national news. After its attack ads on farmers, most of us felt it was about time “they got theirs.” Chipotle’s troubles are not over, however, a class action lawsuit has been filed that claims its food is unhealthy and its nutrition and animal care claims are misleading. The suit charges that Chipotle’s marketing spins a false narrative to consumers that the company’s food is healthier and that the company’s practices are more ethical. Here’s what the lawsuit says consumers should know:
- Chipotle deceptively advertises its beef as free of added hormones. It doesn’t mention that all beef is low in hormones—lower than its pinto beans and tofu that have significantly higher levels of hormones.
- Chipotle claims its food is free of genetically modified ingredients. Yet that’s not true of Chipotle’s soda, and livestock used for Chipotle meat can be fed genetically modified corn and grains up until the day they are processed for food.
- Chipotle promotes a local farm profile and is critical of big processing food suppliers. The deception is that its food is processed in large factories and the company shares a distribution chain with McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Chick-fil-A.
A new web site “Chubby Chipotle” takes on the health claims of the chain by pointing out that its Burritos have as many as 1,500 calories. The New York Times noted, “The typical order at Chipotle has about 1,070 calories. That’s more than half of the calories that most adults are supposed to eat in an entire day.” “Chipotle claims to be ethical, but its ‘Food with Integrity’ marketing doesn’t have any filling. It’s an empty ploy that is highly unscientific and harms animal welfare,” Will Coggin, director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom, said. “Considering how Chipotle ignores scientists and experts, ‘Food with Hypocrisy’ would be a more honest slogan.”
Consumer advocates are always calling on farmers to be more transparent. They claim people have the right to know how their food is being produced. Yet, why aren’t they demanding the same from food retailers like Chipotle who are using consumer concerns to market and mislead? Farmers are working very hard to build consumer trust in their food supply and the methods and technology used to produce it. Firms like Chipotle are using false and misleading information to market their products to the public.
The advocates for agriculture need to switch from defense to offense. Let’s stop defending the farmer and start exposing those who misrepresent and distort the truth about our food supply.
By Gary Truitt