Getting Back to the Start: Chipotle, a healthier food system, and Lokey Net Impact food justice week
By Emily Adams
This year’s Grammy’s (yes, I realize that was months ago but stick with me) featured a lineup of typical ad spots; some funny, some lame, some moderately offensive. However, one commercial stood out from the chatter: an animated short of a pig farmer set to a soundtrack of Willie Nelson covering Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” Any version of that song is enough to make even the coldest hearted individual tear up a little but the short film in the ad tells a particularly touching and compelling story of a pig farmer that builds his farm, goes the way of antibiotics and conveyor belts, and then realizes there is a better way and tears it all down and starts fresh. The commercial was an ad for Chipotle.
There is an ugly side to the American food system, a side that many consumers are either unaware of or choose to ignore (I’ll leave out the details here but highly recommend the Oscar-nominated film Food Inc.) for more info on corporate farming in the US). Massive animal and human rights violations are often justified by dubious ethics: competitive pressures justify the extreme cost cutting measures; consumers demand inexpensive food, and so on and so forth. Companies like Chipotle are turning that logic on its head. Featured in Fast Company’s list of the world’s 50 most innovative companies, Chipotle has proven that a fast food company doesn’t have to build its business on the back of hormone-pumped cows, abused chickens, and unpronounceable food additives in order to earn $2.2 billion in annual revenues and open a new restaurant almost every other day. Chipotle has replaced the traditional advertising media blitz and cheap ingredients with compelling storytelling and quality meats and, as a result, has seen restaurant operating margins hit 25.9%.*
This week Lokey Net Impact is exploring other innovations in the food system and advances in the food justice space. Starting today, we’re hosting competitions, panel discussions, farm tours, a food drive, and an end of the week cocktail mixer. Join us on Thursday, March 29 at 6:30pm in the GSB Gathering Hall for a panel discussion on responsibility in the food business with People’s Grocery, Revolution Foods, Oakland Food Connection and Slow Food and share your comments below on sustainable food. What do you think of Chipotle’s business model and “Food With Integrity” marketing campaign?
Find out more about Feast! Lokey Net Impact Food Week on our Facebook page.
* Some readers may recall a link between Chipotle & McDonald’s. McDonald’s did invest in Chipotle; they were a minority stakeholder from 1998 – 2001 and majority owner from 1998 – 2006. However, McDonald’s completely divested in 2006, the year Chipotle went public. For more information on the Chipotle-McDonald’s connection see here, here, and here.