Chipotle Gives Food for Thought With “Back to the Start”


One of the biggest successes of the 2012 Grammy Awards on Sunday was Chipotle’s short film “Back to the Start” – which aired as a commercial during the award show.

Encouraging us to “Cultivate a better world,” the spot spotlights issues with factory farming and emphasizes the importance of a sustainable food system.

The stop-motion animated film depicts a farmer whose family farm has slowly evolved into a factory.  In a moment of self-reflection, the farmer realizes that he must go “back to the start” and transition away from factory conditions and towards more sustainable farming methods.  Directed by London-based Johnny Kelly, the film features Willie Nelson covering the Coldplay song “The Scientist.”  “Back to the Start” was the longest commercial to run during the Grammys in recent history and was the first time Chipotle ran a national television advertisement since the burrito chain’s inception in 1993.

“We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “We have always understood the importance of serving food that is raised right, but that is a difficult thing to communicate with the limitations of traditional advertising.”

Factory farming is the dark side of America’s obsession with cheap meat.  Many people believe that animals roam free before being taken to slaughterhouses, but in reality most meat comes from animals who are confined to cramped cages their entire lives.  These animals are pumped full of antibiotics to compensate for this overcrowded lifestyle.  According to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, more than 97 percent of U.S. pork comes from confinement operations.

Chipotle is working hard to change these numbers through their support of humanely raised meat and the creation of the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.   The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, established by Chipotle in 2011, is working to create a more sustainable future, through supporting organizations and individuals who support family farms and their communities, educators and programs that teach younger generations about food matters, and ranchers and farmers who are working to develop more sustainable practices.

Since “Back to the Start” was released in August, the film has received considerable acclaim. To date, it has over 5 million views and was eighth most shared ad on YouTube in September shortly after its release. It was named by AdWeek as one of the 10 Best Commercials of 2011, and it was listed by Zeta Interactive as one of the Top 10 Ads to generate online buzz in 2011, one of only two ads to make that list without debuting during the Super Bowl.

If you missed it, here it is.  It’s definitely eye-opening, but that’s exactly what we need to get a dialogue to get started.






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