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Carhartt risks a backlash from American farmers by teaming up with Chipotle

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Carhartt, have you officially lost your mind?

Because Carhartt is one of the most popular farm apparel brands out there, I was very disappointed to learn that they partnered with Chipotle Mexican Grill to promote a new line of farm-inspired clothing. According to news statements, the profits from this co-branded collection will be donated to organizations like the National Young Farmers Coalition with initiatives focused on supporting young farmers.

The problem is that Chipotle has a long history of being no friend to farmers. Superficially, they might act like it sometimes, but the fast-food company has a very skewed reality on what it means to be a farmer. They have a “holier than thou” attitude that most American farmers are doing it wrong or aren’t up to Chipotle’s standards. Go ahead and show us how it’s done if you have an issue with it then, Chipotle. I would love to see your team grow thousands of acres to feed the world and do it better than the multi-generational farm experts who do it for a living.

In Chipotle’s new ad, a video called A Future Begins depicts a sad farmer who appears to be going out of business but then gets a new beginning to revive the farm, be profitable and have success. Their apparel brand partnership with Carhartt includes clothing that says “Support the Future of Farming.”

The idea sounds like a noble cause. The problem is that these words are absolutely hypocritical coming from Chipotle, as they’ve been putting down America’s farmers for years and have also silenced and banned hundreds — if not thousands of farmers — from their social media accounts (myself included.) For years, Chipotle has criticized and undermined farmers and ranchers, bullied them for using modern breeding techniques and for treating their animals with medications. They went all-in in early 2021 with their first Super Bowl ad.

Back in 2015 or 2016, we saw the emergence of their awful marketing campaigns, when they were really at their worst. Take a look at what their cups used to look like:

They then did a Farmed and Dangerous campaign that made it sound like food comes from horrific places filled with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, factory farm conditions, etc. (unless you’re buying from Chipotle, duh?).

Chipotle claims they buy from local farms. But do they really? It’s understood that they’ve been sourcing beef from Australia and pork from the UK, veggies from Mexico, and so on. I know of an American pig farmer who Chipotle wanted to source from, but the farm told them to take a hike. This producers didn’t even want to sell the pork to the restaurant chain, due to the fact that Chipotle has point-blank lied to consumers and have continued to plague and put down modern farming.

The hypocrisy of Chipotle continues as they claimed to have gotten rid of GMOs yet still serve soda made from GMO corn syrup. They also serve cheese, which uses enzymes obtained from GE microbes. They’ve faced at least one major lawsuit because of this, but to Chipotle, these are high-margin items, so it’s easy to look the other way when profits are rolling in.

Chipotle, if you want to claim you’d like to reduce pesticide usage and support family farms, this is exactly why you should support GMOs. This is why you should partner with farmers of all shapes and sizes, not just small non-GMO kinds of farms that are arbitrarily deemed “good enough” for you.

Dig in a little, Chipotle. Tour more large-scale farms. Learn the real truth about where your food comes from, direct from the large scale, GMO “factory” types you rail against. They, too, are going out of business by leaps and bounds, but do you care? Or are you only here to support a small, specific percentage and why? All farms deserve support and respect regardless of size or label.

carhartt-chipotle-future-of-farming
Image courtesy of Zeno Group

Chipotle got a new chief marketing officer, Chris Brandt, in April of 2018. And since then, it seems as if they’ve softened their marketing image to be a little kinder to farmers. However, I still don’t feel this is enough.

Carhartt, partnering with this restaurant chain is a bad idea. And Chipotle? We need an apology. We need a statement from you claiming that your previous marketing efforts failed and were point blank mean, rude, and dishonest. The new marketing campaign seems to be smoke and mirrors to me to try and cover up the damage you’ve done. We saw this at the tail end of 2019, too, when Chipotle’s Cultivate the Future of Farming campaign sought to raise awareness of the hardships being experienced in agriculture, while also offering some seed grants in order to reverse it.

The question asked then, though, was: Are they attempting to solve a problem that they were instrumental in creating?

Until farmers and consumers get an approach from Chipotle that is genuine, trustworthy, and remorseful … sorry not sorry, Chipotle. I’d love to have a conversation with you all, but I have been banned and silenced from communicating with your social media team. How messed up is that? All I did was talk about the benefits of GMOs when you rolled out your awful anti-GMO ad campaign.

You don’t want to have an actual conversation with GMO farmers who talk about all the good we are doing on our farms and protecting the environment. You just want to continue to tell an ugly story about us, how your food is superior because it doesn’t use hormones or antibiotics? Well guess what, Chipotle. There’s no such thing as added hormones in poultry or pork, and there’s no nutritional difference in cattle with added hormones. All meat and dairy products are processed antibiotic free due to withdrawal times, and a majority of livestock can be raised with “No antibiotics ever” due to improved genetics, housing, bio security, regulations and more.

But will you tell that story? Doubtful. In the meantime, I will continue to support the future of farming without the help of Chipotle or Carhartt. It’s a boycott for both of these brands now if you ask me.

I reached out to the PR agency managing this partnership in hopes to have a discussion with them, and at the time of writing this, they were unavailable for comment. Best I could do was leave a voicemail.

The door is open, Carhartt and Chipotle, if you’d like to have a conversation and offer an apology to move forward.

Oh, and maybe unban me from your Facebook page if you’d like to have a real dialogue and offer a meaningful solution to supporting and keeping American farms up and running.

 

Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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