The Peterson Farm Bros’ Beef With Chipotle (Part 4): The Definition of Ethical Behavior

Chipotle’s videos portray farmers as unethical. The main character of “Farmed and Dangerous” depicts farmers as a CEO of a huge company who will do whatever it takes to make as much money as possible. While farmers are concerned about staying in business and supporting their family so they can continue to grow the food you eat, we are also very concerned about safety, sustainability, conservation, and overall ethical behavior. I hope I’ve been able to communicate this in the previous sections. However, the farmer’s emotional connection to the land he works on and the animals he raises can really only be understood by visiting a real farm and talking to a real farmer.

On the flip side, Chipotle also loves to portray themselves as a company that prides itself on ethical behavior. After reading all of the above, I hope you can understand why I struggle with this claim. In fact, I believe (ironically) that Chipotle may actually be the ones who are being unethical and greedy in the whole situation:

-Chipotle is a huge corporation that owns more than 1,500 restaurants and boasts a stock-market value of more than $15 billion. Its shares currently trade at about $550 apiece. Their marketing schemes attempt to tear down huge farms and support the little guy. But after reading this I hope you can see that in reality, THEY are the huge industry greedily trying to make a profit, and FAMILY FARMERS are the little guy, despite the size of our farms (we aren’t rich for crying out loud!).

-Chipotle claims to have “food with integrity” that is better than other fast food restaurants. What about a burrito loaded with fat (58.5 grams), sodium (2,475 mg) and calories (1,225) makes it any better than any other fast food out there? And why do they never mention the terribly unhealthy soft drinks they serve? How do their false claims against family farmers give their burritos more integrity? Are they not misleading consumers into thinking they are getting “better” food, when a lot of the time they are getting their supply from the very farmers they are attacking?

(See: Big Mac Nutrition vs. Chipotle Burrito Nutrition)

-In “Farmed and Dangerous,” Chipotle spent millions of dollars to pay big city actors to try and depict modern day agriculture in a comedy. These actors have no concept of what a real farm is like, and are only saying what they are paid to say. Chipotle claims this series is a “fictional comedy,” but they won’t argue with people who believe it is exactly what real agriculture looks like. I’ve seen many comments on the videos where people are completely misinformed but still tell Chipotle good job. Chipotle only replies with “Thanks!” and never corrects the fact that what they commented was untrue. They are concerned only with support from the consumers who pay them money, not the truth.

-In “The Scarecrow,” Chipotle uses a fictional cartoon to depict modern day agriculture. If they truly believe modern day agriculture is comparable to that cartoon, why not use actual footage from actual farms? The current anti-big agriculture movement is entirely based on skewed promotion like this (heavily edited and/or cartoon videos) and I believe it is truly unethical. If you can’t convince someone of something by showing them real life evidence, it’s probably not the truth.

-Chipotle posted a picture of the huge party they had following the release of “Farmed and Dangerous.” This to me captures how I feel about their approach. Do you think any farmers were invited to this big-city event? Do you think the celebration is really based on promoting the truth about agriculture? Or are they celebrating the fact that their marketing technique is convincing people to buy more of their burritos? While they are celebrating the misleading of consumers in their New York City event venue, farmers around the country are still hard at work raising the very food they eat.

The "Farmed and Dangerous" after party in New York City.

The “Farmed and Dangerous” after party in New York City. (Photo credit to Chipotle)

-Chipotle offers no solutions to their so-called “problems” with agriculture. All I see is that they are telling consumers to stop supporting big farmers and start buying more Chipotle burritos. Whenever someone’s solution to a problem is to give them more of your money, you should be very skeptical of their intent and motives.

In conclusion:

Farming certainly isn’t perfect. Neither are farmers. Neither is Chipotle. Neither are consumers. We must all remember this as we move forward. Sustainable food production is something that everyone should continue to shoot for, both farmers and consumers alike. There will be billions more people for farmers to feed in the next couple of decades. However, if we want to reach sustainable food production people MUST be willing to accept new technology in farming while still standing for the truth and ethical values. Resorting to using mistruths to bash the farmers who are feeding the world is not a solution! We must work together to find new solutions that are not in conflict with the current ones we already have. If we do that, feeding the world AND taking care of the world can coexist.

My challenge to consumers: Challenge companies like Chipotle to stand for TRUTH, not just for successful marketing. If you want to live a healthy life, cook for yourself more often, eat in moderation, and exercise daily. Continue to ask questions about modern day agriculture and the food you are eating. But be careful where you are getting your information from. Be skeptical. If you really want to be sure of the truth, visit real farms in your area to see with your own eyes what is happening and talk with real farmers about the issues we’ve talked about.

My challenge to farmers: Be transparent. We should have nothing to hide! Open up your farm to the public to allow them to see the real life production of their food. Try to communicate the beauty of farming together as a family. Answer questions consumers have to the best of your ability. And most importantly, always be on the lookout for ways to allow your farming operation to become more sustainable, more eco-friendly, and more efficient! Farming is an industry that has to constantly evolve for the better. If we still farmed like we did in the ‘50’s there would obviously be a lot of problems!

My challenge to Chipotle: Continue with your approach to provide quality fast food to consumers that comes from local, family farms! Continue to use mainly organic food products if you want, I have no problem with that! But please, DO NOT ATTACK LARGER FAMILY FARMERS! Start making videos and advertisements showing the TRUTH about family farms in America. You have an open invitation to come out and visit our farm. I hope other farmers will follow suit. I believe searching for and promoting the truth about modern day agriculture will get you a lot farther with customers than promoting lies and half-truths for profit’s sake. Ethics should always be more important than profit. Sustainable food production can and will happen if we are all working together instead of attacking each other with unethical profit-driven motives! Listen, I used to eat at your restaurant every week in college! Your food was delicious! But, sadly, you have lost a valued customer for the time being. If you do decide to change your approach, and support all farmers who are practicing ethical behavior and producing safe, high quality food, I would absolutely love to start eating your burritos again! Hope to hear from you soon, Chipotle!

Part 1: The Peterson Farm Bros’ Beef With Chipotle

Part 2: The Definition of a Family Farmer

Part 3: The Definition of a Humanely Raised Animal

Part 4: The Definition of Ethical Behavior

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25 thoughts on “The Peterson Farm Bros’ Beef With Chipotle (Part 4): The Definition of Ethical Behavior

  1. Well said, and well written. Having grown up on a farm, and being interested in agriculture myself, I have nothing but the utmost respect for farmers and their families. Hopefully more people will become educated on what actually goes on on a farm, as opposed to relying on what they read/hear/view from sources that may not be reputable.

  2. I have not seen the Chipotle commercials. I saw this on the Facebook and have read all of the post. You need to run for president! You have my vote. Thank you for eloquently stating facts and not smearing Chipotle. You state facts, challenge consumers to make educated decisions for themselves and offered an open door policy. I grew up in a small town. My grandpa was a dairy farmer many years ago. I appreciate what you have shared. Thank you!

  3. Good essay. Very true. Consumers don’t understand livestock production. This country is so full of liars, I wonder if the truth will ever be believed!

    • You are welcome to have your own point of view and eat what you want but I must ask if you have every really worked on a livestock farm. If you haven’t I strongly encourage you to donate time at a local livestock farm to see that we are not evil. I have over 100 head of animals. They each have a name and they are all carefully cared for too ensure that they have the best possible life. My milk goes directly in Cabot cheese as well as a number of other products. We are a family run farm in the North East. And without people like us (farmers of all sorts) America would be starving.

  4. Greg, This was a great article that needed to be written. Good luck to you and your family & God Bless! J. Stocker

  5. Your arguments only make me agree more with Chipotle’s stance.

    You don’t have to confine animals on feedlots. You said yourself that you do this for your own convenience, not for the animals’ well-being.

    Just because your family has “farmed” for generations doesn’t mean that your practices are humane, sound, or healthy. I don’t care if “farmers have used growth hormones for 60 years” or a hundred years. Farmers used to use incredibly toxic pesticides, too – but stopped when they learned how dangerous they are.

    Sorry, dude. You want sympathy, look in the dictionary.

    • We don’t own any grass and there isn’t any in our area to buy or rent. Even if there was grass pasture for sale in our area it would cost about $2,000 an acre. It takes 10 acres per head to adequately graze cattle. To graze even a few hundred cattle we would have start up costs of 2 or 3 million dollars. There is no way. I said in the blog the animals are confined for their well-being (shelter from weather). There is nothing wrong with the process, you would see that if you actually visited a real live farm! Feel free to visit ours this summer when we open it up for tours!

      • I have never lived on a family farm but I raised market swine for 7 years on the 4H farm. I spent every day after school and all of my summers on that farm! We gave our animals vaccinations. We gave them antibiotics if they became sick. They spent a lot of their time in their confined pens, with some pasture time. They developed a routine and knew when it was time to go back to the pens, and they would gladly trot on back! After all, that is where their warm comfy straw bed is. That is where their easy access to food and water is. What animal wouldn’t be happy with that set up, I mean seriously? That is spoiled compared to a free range pasture life. I may have only had one animal at a time during those years, but I was always working hard to get them into tip top market shape to make them more valuable to the consumer. And at the same time more valuable for me. This could never be achieved if the animals best interest were not the first priority. I know first hand the more committed I was, the more I cared about the animal, the better results I would recieve by the end of my poject. The greater the results, the greater the reward. For this completely ethical business goal to be skewed into an evil plot filled with greed, is just plain sad. I know that my experience with agriculture is by far miniscule compared to yours, but I just wanted to say I understand and completely agree with everything you are saying. It isn’t a subject that poeple with no farm experience can easily understand. Please keep encouraging people to visit a local farm and good luck with all your future endeavors Peterson Farm Bros! Thank you for your continued commitment to feeding others, much respect!!

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more. I started out as an average American in an urban section of California. I went to college and had not touched a cow ever. That all changed when I met a farmer and went to university of Kentucky.. I have been to dozens of farms and I can voucher for everyone that I am not bias. How can I be when I didn’t grow up in that farming culture? Farmers love the animals and the hard work. You would HAVE to love it to break your back doing it. They are wholesome American people who have to love their animals to survive. Believe me if something is wrong they go out of business, or they reach out to extension or veterinarians to fix the problem. I’ve been to many farms needing help and each one of them cares so much about their animals. The most successful dairies are so because they are so observant and knowledgeable. I’m now working on my MS in dairy simply because farmer s ARE the most honest, well rounded people. They inspire me with their tenacity and willingness to change. They are more educated than any other profession out there. They have to be mechanical, economically oriented, great managers, conscious of the earth weather and environment, nutritionists, scientific, nurturing and have common sense. Thank you guys for spreading the word. We need more people who have first hand farm experience to speak for agriculture and more farmers willing to lead people in the right direction. You guys rock.

  7. Thanks for the great explanation. Part of the problem is you are making an argument with a public that,to a large degree worships the created, not the Creator. They may never understand no matter how compelling your argument. Keep up the great work and I would love to visit your farm someday.

  8. Thank-you for taking the time to write this article. I left our little family farm over fifty years ago and moved to the city. I am always amazed at the attitude many city folk have about the farmer and where their food comes from. If only they could walk a day in your shoes. I currently live in a rural area and near some large corporate farms. While the size of the farms has dramatically increased and the technology and equipment is so much improved from the little farm I grew up on the character of the farmer seems to be mostly the same.

    I have never been able to understand why people that do not have a farm background are so often not able to understand why it is that the farmer is an environmentalist and a conservationist. Why is he concerned about his animals? They don’t get the idea that as the land erodes or the water becomes contaminated they will loose their lively hood. They don’t get the idea that a healthy well cared for animal is more profitable the one that is not well cared for. Hopefully, some of the folks that read your article will now see that, but I for one wouldn’t bet on it and would point to Ms Pony for my example.

    So thank-you for you and your families work. I do love to eat and when I go to the supermarket and buy that burger, roast or steak, I will think of you and wonder if maybe some of it came from your farm.

  9. You guys do a fantastic job of communicating on the real issues. Thank you for what you do. I wish more of the general public sought information from the source and not companies like Chipotle that are whores for misinformation.

  10. Well written and very truthful … You gave Chipotle the invitiation to come to your farm … I would love to know if they ever show … They also have an invitation to my farm as well!

    Also, very good job on maintaining your level of respect and dignity while writing your article!

  11. We own a dairy farm in Northeast Kansas. We are also very fortunate to live in a farming community that doesn’t believe in the “organic” hype. We do realize that most people have become detached from the reality of where their food actually does come from. We would like to thank you young men for bridging the gap between the informed and the uninformed. We are so very, very proud of you. Keep up the great work and my God be with you.

  12. What I don’t get is that there are comments made on the family farm by some people who actually have no ideas how farms work these days, and make people believe things that are not what the real thing is about. wake up you guys! Its not the stone age anymore! Todays farmers need to produce for the world high quality foods. That requires an enormous effort from all involved. So give the hard working farmer the credits they deserve for producing the worlds foods today and encourage them to do so as long as there is hunger anywhere in the world.

  13. I agree, education is the answer. Urban and non-farmers need to visit a farm(s). There is just way too much misconceptions, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation floating’ around, mostly against the farmer.

    I am a city-dweller and very like to eat as organic and local as possible.

    I know exactly what Peterson is talking about. Our family still farms (raises) corns, beans, wheat and an Angus cow-calf herd. Farming is brutally hard way of life – no rich fat cats here. Farmer’s profit margin is paper thin.

    You do not call in sick there. I grew up there and handled cattle myself.

  14. Great article. I’m still very concerned about slaughtering practices in the US, as I have seen several videos of these inhumane practices. I know you argue that these videos are few and far between, but although I have visited humane family farms, the process of slaughter is often a hidden one in my experience. And with the problems of deforestation, pollution from the cattle waste, and other issues associated with such high meat consumption (including seemingly unavoidable suffering in slaughter- I read this heartbreaking article on the “last pig” problem a while back, and it stuck with me:, I think the solution lies in not only encouraging humane animal husbandry and slaughter, but in reducing our meat consumption in general and purchasing directly from the family farms whenever possible. That way we know exactly where our meat comes from, and how it has been raised. I am a former vegetarian, but I think my return to meat eating, health aside, is that in refusing to eat meat I opt out of voting for the kind of farms I want to stay in business- that is, the humane ones. The problem with corporations who sell meat products is that we have no way of knowing where or how the animals were raised. I stumbled on a Tyson chicken raising operation near my aunt’s house in the country a few years ago, and the door to the warehouse was unlocked. No one was around, so I went in and observed. The chickens did not look healthy or happy (there were so many packed in that they had difficulty moving), but they did appear to have a working water system and food, so it was difficult to see the line between caring just enough and irresponsible husbandry. I would not personally want to support that particular plant, but in purchasing from Tyson I do that whether the particular chickens I eat were raised in better or worse conditions. If I purchase directly from a local farmer, however, I not only support humane practices- I support someone I can personally come to know and respect, and I can give myself peace of mind in knowing that I am not contributing to those operations which are inhumane- however few or many they may be. Thanks again for your thoughtful article.

    • In my view there is something very wrong with your actions, on tow levels. First, intentially breaking the law. Secondly, risking that farmers livestock to disease.

      Why do you think it is fine to trespass onto someone else’s property and enter a building? Regardless of your good intentions to make sure the animals were being treated according to your personal values, you have broken a law.

      Worse yet, you very well could have transmitted a disease to those animals. Since you care so much, please make yourself aware of biosecurity practices on livestock farms. There are sound reasons to limit human contact in order to protect livestock from disease transmission.

      • I did not approach them- I observed, keeping a healthy distance. Laws in my opinion do not approach ethical obligations. My ethical obligation is to ensure that animals are being treated humanely, and this goes above legal obligations when the two conflict, although, being around 16 at the time, I doubt the police would have thrown away the key. That said, thank you for refusing to address my ethical concerns and only chiding me for underage trespassing, which just about every teenager does at some point or another, usually for less ethically-inclined reasons.

  15. As an ex farmer from the UK, now living in the US, I have been following your antics for a while now. My family back in the UK are all still involved in agriculture with my brother harvesting over 3000 acres of corn each year. For far too long, agriculture has allowed itself to become manipulated by corporations and misinformed individuals. I think what you guys are doing is nothing short of brilliant as you are not only trying to entertain but educate people at the same time. Congratulations on a very well written article and may your popularity and farming exploits go from strength to strength.

    PS I was gutted to see that you are only open at certain times of the year, as I am visiting Kansa in septemeber and would loved to have met you. Also, there is a guy in the UK called Jimmy who is trying to promote agriculture in the same way as you. He has done several programmes for the BBC, you ought to get in touch!

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