Willie Nelson recently teamed up with Chipotle Mexican Grill in a commercial featuring a cover of Coldplay's The Scientist over an animation that highlights the restaurant chain's support of sustainable and organic farming practices.
The commercial debuted online last August, but aired for the first time on national television during the 2012 Grammys Feb. 12, following an actual performance by Coldplay of their 2003 hit song.
The computer animation opens with a pastoral setting, depicting a small family farm with several pigs and cows out in the open, which changes over time into factories processing hundreds of animals with hormones and antibiotics, leaving a trail of toxic waste behind.
Questions of science, science and progress, don't speak as loud as my heart, sings Nelson. Nobody said it was easy.
It is a representation of the industrialization of agriculture that has become a major debate in America as small organic farms struggle to compete with large-scale factory farming, subsidized by the government and beholden to the bottom-line interests of mega-corporations that dominate food production.
The animation continues as a weary farmer, burdened with the realities of industrial agriculture, gets up and tears down the walls of the factory farm holding pens, restoring the blighted environment and abandoned family farms to green pastures, where the animals graze freely.
I'm going back to the start, sings Nelson, bringing the commercial to a close as another farmer hand-delivers a crate of produce into the back of a Chipotle delivery truck.
Chipotle and Sustainable Farming
Chipotle has become a major proponent of sustainable farming and began sourcing ingredients from local and organic farms in 2000. Founder and CEO Steve Ells talks about the company's philosophy in a letter posted on its web site:
As Chipotle began to grow and expand, I learned quite a bit about the way most of the food in the US is produced and processed --- and what I learned was pretty grim. Pigs are raised in stark confinement, produce is grown on vast factory farms with little or no regard for the environment, and dairy cows are confined and injected with hormones that make them produce 8 times their normal amount of milk.
But I also learned that there is a better way. I met ranchers and farmers dedicated to raising livestock and growing produce using responsible, respectful, and sustainable techniques. By partnering with these producers we have increased the amount of naturally raised meats and responsibly grown produce we purchase exponentially.
We are proud of our accomplishments, but there is still a long way to go.
Perhaps in a grand irony, McDonald's--arguably the most pervasive buyer of factory farm products in the world--once held a controlling stake in Chipotle. Through its involvement with the multinational fast food chain, Chipotle was able to rapidly expand to become a nationwide establishment.
In 2006, McDonald's sold off its shares in Chipotle, giving up its controlling stake and severing the company's access to its distribution networks, according to Nutrition Wonderland.