Check out Chipotle's brilliant, haunting ad

The new spot and its accompanying gaming app emphasize the chain's choices of organic and sustainable ingredients.

By Jonathan Berr Sep 13, 2013 1:26PM
Credit: © GUS RUELAS/Newscom/RTR
Caption: File photo of Chipotle Mexican Grill in Beverly Hills, Calif.The message in Chipotle Mexican Grill's (CMG) brilliant "Scarecrow" advertisement is clear as a bell: Organic farming is better than conventional farming. 

For years, Chipotle has marketed its gourmet burritos and tacos as food with integrity, emphasizing that it supports family farmers and the animals in their care. That stance is certainly admirable, and it's one of the reasons for Chipotle's phenomenal success.

As Slate noted, the chain has also avoided advertising on television, which has only enhanced the prestige of its brand. "Scarecrow," which features Fiona Apple's haunting rendition of "Pure Imagination," is sure to win a Clio award, which is the advertising industry's answer to the Oscars.

The ad campaign also includes a Chipotle app, downloadable for free at the iTunes store, with which players "help the Scarecrow rescue the City of Plenty from Crow Foods, the powerful industrial food corporation that has taken over the city."
The reality about how food is produced in the U.S., however, is more complicated than the sad Chipotle scarecrow would have us believe.
For instance, As WebMD notes, there is no clear evidence that organic fruits and vegetables are any more tasty or nutritious than conventional ones. Also, organic farming is less efficient and requires far more land to produce the same amount of food. That creates its own environmental problems.

Modern high-yield farming has saved 15 million square miles of wildlife habitat, the site notes, citing research from Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues. "If the world switched to organic farming, we'd need to cut down 10 million square miles of forest," WebMD adds.

Organic food can be more expensive than conventional food because, among other reasons, farmers who use these practices don't receive federal subsidies. However, that's not always the case. notes that some organic products, such as coffee, cereal and bread, may cost as much as or less than their conventional counterparts.

The Chipotle scarecrow's message about the evils of factory farming is worth discussing, but consumers need to resist the temptation to reduce the issue to a question of good guys and bad guys.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Sep 13, 2013 2:16PM
And that is the real issue,  that the chemicals used in mass farming are believed to be causing all sorts of health issues  that organic foods will not cause.  
Sep 13, 2013 3:07PM
GMOs and pesticides have been proven to cause cancer and other issues. The way cancer has increased in the 2 decades they have been in our food supply will help kill us off and then the organic farms can feed the ones of us that survive. But since Monsanto is now infiltrated into our FDA, I forgot, they are totally safe. The other countries that have banned them based on studies NOT done by Monsanto are all wrong. Give me organic please!!
Sep 13, 2013 3:19PM

Wow MSN - way to plug for Big Agriculture.  Just like Congress, I'm sure your (GMO) bread is butterred by the chemical crap that feeds America. 


To my fellow Americans - eat real food.  Watch the movie "Food Inc".  I'm on the Paleo/Primal diet and I avoid processed junk like the plague, and I feel great.

Sep 13, 2013 2:38PM
I purchase both organic and non-organic foods, whichever is the best deal at the time.  Really, I  just want my food to be all-natural.  Which is becoming harder and harder.  When I worked for a supermarket I learned that even seafood has been altered in some way - farmers, literally, have a color swatch for their salmon.  They can pick a color, and additives in the feed will alter the color of the salmon's flesh.  The simple solution is to purchase wild-caught salmon, but with a price at over $10/lb (the lowest I've, personally, seen is $13/lb), that's not an option for many consumers.  I would love to eat an all-organic diet, but my wallet just can't take it.  
Sep 13, 2013 3:14PM
It's not about nutritional advantage its about not consuming cancer causing chemicals and highly processed foods. Could their be a correlation with the increase in diabetes, cancer and the types of foods we consume?
Sep 13, 2013 4:27PM

Organic food may not taste better, to some, nor be more nutritious, but it also doesn't contain herbicides and pesticides. No poisons going into our bodies.


I think organice farmers should receive the same subsidies that other farmers receive.

Sep 13, 2013 2:50PM
WebMD is not only misleading but wrong! Aeroponics uses no soil, very little water and very small amount of space. Even far less than conventional farming while producing more per plant than either conventional or organic but this could be considered the best form of organic cause the environment can be controlled.  
Sep 13, 2013 3:53PM
I stopped eating meat because of a video I watched called "Peaceful Kingdom". After seeing how these poor animals are looked after and the inhumane way they are slaughtered, I'm done. All those corporate fagot$ are concerned about is the bottom line. 
Sep 13, 2013 3:21PM
Just for the record, the author of the WebMD article quoted here as a "source" is Sarah Wexler. Here is her bio from her website:

Wexler holds a B.A. in fiction and M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Not sure if that is the expert author someone should be reading when considering switching to organic.
Sep 13, 2013 4:03PM
I think that the American public has been brainwashed into believing that pretty and more is best, but the point about organic food is it is raised in a better environment with no pesticides, chemical additives, and GMOs which have been shown to be cancer causing. I buy both organic and non-organic, depending on availability and cost.  We also have a small garden and have started to can our own.
Sep 13, 2013 4:54PM
sounds like the author of this article is purely on the side of the factory farms who aim at profit and do not care what kinds of conditions the animals are kept. This ad says nothing about organic. It does imply that free range is better. Free range and Organic are different. You can have hormones and antibiotics along with pesticides (not that I want that) in free range livestock. Organic is a bit more in-depth. But thanks for trying to further the brainwashing of the unhealthy pharmaceutically addicted mass. If you would like to write an article try not to be so biased.
Sep 13, 2013 4:46PM
The add/video is brilliant!  Hats off to Chipotle's marketing department and add agency!
Sep 13, 2013 5:13PM

All veggies, meat and fish are good, without all the chemical. Our bodies are not made to process chemicals! That’s the bottom line. This is why so many people are sick today. Read a label on your bag, box or package of food and see what your eating, if you can pronounce it or even figure out what is. When I was young I never knew of any kid with ADD or Type 2 diabetes. Recently I have lost 2 friends to brain tumors and know of 2 others with the same. If you want to eat whatever the FDA approves have at it and good luck with that.

Sep 13, 2013 6:28PM
One poster stated that those whom buy organic have more money than sense. Oh Really? What's the sense in completely revamping Mother Nature? She has been doing Fine for Millions if not Billions of years, all by herself. But of course, Mankind thinks it knows better.

The Human body wasn't design to intake chemicals over time. An the cost of that is far more trips to the doctor, especially when you get older. That cost alone make's it worth any additional cost it takes for everyone to grow Organics.

We are simply repeating the same arrogance and mistakes of the past, but on a far bigger scale. The cost could be the existence of humanity itself. Mother Nature will win in the end. Earth was doing fine before Humans and it will certainly be doing fine after them.

Sep 13, 2013 6:29PM

Diet, health  and health care go hand in hand in my judgment. If we take the long view and analyze how different cultures throughout the world produce and consume food we can come to that conclusion quite easily really. There is no question there is a direct link to the types of food consumed and the overall health of the person consuming it. If you look at what is spent on food and health care the numbers become even more astonishing. So basically what I'm saying is that the less healthy you eat and live, the more you'll be spending on health care overall or if you don't have health care, the more you'll cost everyone else.


I see no reason why food can't be viewed not only as a way to sustain yourself but as a form of preventative care as well. I'm not going to endorse any particular diet here but if common sense is used and you eat a diet that is body friendly and natural, along with moderate exercise and minimal stresses to your mind and spirit, the total cost for food and health care in your life will be far less. This also assumes the are no predispositions to hereditary conditions though I'm not sure that automatically means you'll get certain conditions if preventative measures are taken. Then again if you have the longevity gene you might be able to fudge a little, but why take chances.


There's no question in my mind that the combination of the way we produce foods in the US, the marketing of, the numerous psychological reasons for over consuming and our highly stressful lifestyle in general, not to mention lack of reasonable amounts of exercise and the big pharma drugs we are prescribed are not helping.

Sep 13, 2013 5:07PM
Contrary to what most people believe, "organic" does not automatically mean "pesticide-free" or "chemical-free". In fact, under the laws of most states, organic farmers are allowed to use a wide variety of chemical sprays and powders on their crops.

So what does organic mean? It means that these pesticides, if used, must be derived from natural sources, not synthetically manufactured. Also, these pesticides must be applied using equipment that has not been used to apply any synthetic materials for the past three years, and the land being planted cannot have been treated with synthetic materials for that period either.

Sep 13, 2013 7:26PM
Sep 13, 2013 5:19PM
Oh I love that!!! Its so great when the truth is told.
Sep 15, 2013 5:52PM
No "forests" need to be cut down to produce organic food.  How ridiculous!!  It's a well-known FACT that urban gardeners are able to produce huge yields of organic produce even on high rise rooftops.  In Chicago, Rick Bayless, is a well-known force in this movement as well as MANY others in cities and areas where little space for growing is evident.  Much food can be grown in small areas and excuses to the contrary are simply that.  Proponents of the mass food industry love to inundate uninformed consumers with tales of woe and confuse with hefty terms and terminologies for the sake of their pocketbooks...period...As far as no "evidence of taste" differences?  Anyone that's tasted a mass-grown peach, apple, tomato or any such foodstuff would be an idiot not to be able to tell the difference.  The look, smell and taste are COMPLETELY different.  There is NO comparison.  Wake up America and smell (and taste) the coffee...there is definitely a BIG difference!  Those of us that were children in the 60's when you could still find food that was real food know the difference.  Those of us that feed our children real food in this millennium have children that know the difference also.
Sep 15, 2013 5:44PM
No more GMO! We are not the FDA's guinea pigs! Stop killing American's with the chemical laden foods. Please, before it is too late.
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