Chipotle, scarecrows and the “healthy foods” movement


Preparing a meal at Chipotle

Think of all the processed ingredients you eat on a daily basis. Artificial flavors, artificial colors and preservatives are all commonplace in the heart of the American fast food industry. Fast food restaurants seek out convenient and cheap ways to prepare their ingredients–whether it involves injecting growth hormones into chickens or adding preservatives to recipes. Using chemical enhancements and excessive amounts of oil has become the norm in the food industry. The result is high calorie foods which consumers eat regularly.
On a daily basis, consumers have to choose between various fast food places and then rush back to their busy lives. Their choices are limited to popular fast food restaurants such as In-N-Out, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Chipotle and similar chains. But what causes consumers to pick one fast food restaurant over the other? The price and accessibility of these restaurants usually determine where people choose to eat.  Consumers are thus caught in a catch-22 in which there is no winning scenario – they expect cheaper prices and so fast food companies use cheaper ingredients. This in turn returns consumers to poorer diets. Perhaps it is true that “you get what you pay for”.
On the other hand, a new trend has been garnering momentum in America: the healthy foods movement.  Phrases like “low fat”, “all natural”, and “fat free” are becoming synonymous with “good for you”. Whether the foods championed by this movement – kale salads, açaí bowls, juice cleanses – are truly “good for you” remains unclear. But what is clear is that many fast food chains have adapted to this new wave of “healthiness” by reshaping their menus and marketing strategies.
Recently, Chipotle came out with a short film, The Scarecrow, that featured a fictional company dubbed the Crow Company that used processed chickens and cows for its meat. The video illustrated the life of a scarecrow that had to patch up holes in factories who witnessed the Crow Company injecting hormones into cows and chickens. As the video progressed, the scarecrow watched in despair as consumers continued to eat this processed food. The video concluded with the scarecrow quitting his job and opening a little food stand, selling his own homegrown vegetables. This commercial boldly depicts Chipotle’s position on natural ingredients and how the company refuses to use any artificial means to produce its food. Through this video, Chipotle Corporation showed viewers the values it upholds.
However, skeptics of The Scarecrow have argued that Chipotle simply advertises its superiority over other fast food corporations without providing proof of Chipotle’s quality of food.  In her New Yorker article, “What does The Scarecrow tell us about Chipotle”, journalist Elizabeth Weiss quotes Chris Arnold,  Chipotle’s communications director, who said, “We’ve never professed to being perfect, the commitment we made is constant improvement.” Chris Arnold’s level-headed reply reflects Chipotle’s business model–constant improvement upon simple foundations.  While greasy fast food has become the apex meal for the average American, Chipotle is making strides in selling healthier but just as accessible food.
When I walk into a Chipotle, I am able to see all the ingredients that are used to make my burrito. In a fast food place like McDonalds, I only see the end product, not the process of my food being made. Being able to see what goes into my food is far more reassuring than just receiving the meal without knowledge of how it was made. The quality ingredients that Chipotle displays in front of its customers present a refreshing taste in the fast food world–one that I hope to see more of in the future.
Watch The Scarecrow.
Written by DAVID LI
Staff Writer