9:19am

Thu February 20, 2014
Agriculture

Chipotle Calls Out Conventional Agriculture In ‘Farmed And Dangerous’

The latest salvo in the PR battle between the anti-conventional farming crowd and "Big Ag" doesn’t come on the floor of a state legislature and it doesn’t feature adorable farm families or zombies eating corn.

Instead, it comes in the form of the guy from the “Twin Peaks” movie.

Chipotle, the burrito chain that promises “food with integrity” that is raised with sustainability in mind, released its own TV show this week. It’s called “Farmed and Dangerous,” and its four episodes will be released weekly online on Hulu. (Check out the trailer for the series, below.)

The series stars Ray Wise, a character actor who you’ll recognize from pretty much everything, and it depicts the trials of a "Big Food" company trying to convince the public that creating livestock that can subsist on little oil pellets is a good idea.

Screencap from the 'Farmed And Dangerous' trailer. Ray Wise is seen here as Buck, the character that represents industrial food industry in the series.
Credit Chipotle

Chipotle bills the show as a comedy series. What it is, is satire. The show paints a bleak picture of our food system – that it is designed to benefit huge corporations, that it doesn’t put consumers or the environment in mind, that it produces unhealthy food – and there are few jokes thrown in. (To be fair, I’ve only watched the first episode.)

As you might imagine, many farmers and ranchers reject Chipotle’s criticisms as biased and unfair.

But that’s sort of the point. This is marketing, and it’s fascinating. It’s sleek and professional. It’s digital-only. It rarely even mentions Chipotle. It’s a scripted television show that wants to change the way you feel about food, and perhaps to guide you toward a Chipotle burrito with that new outlook in mind.

For years now, the battle for hearts, minds and stomachs has been playing out in the media. This isn’t Chipotle’s first foray into controversial advertising. Critics, however, contend that the arguments are most often presented as dichotomous – you either care about affordable food production or you care about the environment, and the like. “Farmed and Dangerous” is in that tradition.

The big food and ag companies that have a stake in what we now call “conventional” agriculture spend tons of money to improve their image. And “Farmed and Dangerous,” with its reported $1 million price tag, is following suit.