Last Sunday, as participants in the Fast for Fair Food were making their way back home, an event was taking place in Santa Barbara, California, that would once again highlight the contradiction between the carefully crafted public image and on-the-ground practice of one longtime Fair Food hold-out: Chipotle Mexican Grill.
The event was the Edible Institute 2012, “a two-day gathering with some of the local food movements most influential thinkers, writers and producers,” and it included speakers such Barry Estabrook (author of “Tomatoland”), Tracy McMillan (author of “The American Way of Eating”), Helene Yorke (an executive at Fair Food partner Bon Appetit Management Company), and none other than Chipotle’s very own Communications Director, Chris Arnold.
The Twitter record helps establish the events of the day:
Doing the public speaking thing this morning on a panel @edi2012.
— Chris Arnold (@ChipotleMedia) March 11, 2012
Arnold gave an informative overview of Chipotle’s committment to sustainably produced meat. But then!
— Dina Clapinski (@BeFoodSmart) March 11, 2012
The room burst into applause. Arnold offered a non-answer, but most of the audience wasn’t buying it, including Mirra Fine and Daniel Klein of The Pernneial Plate:
— Mirra Fine (@kaleandcola) March 11, 2012
— Daniel Klein (@perennialplate) March 12, 2012
This comes on the heels of two great articles that called out Chipotle in the lead-up to the Fast and in response to the company’s high-profile “Back to the Start” television ad, which aired during this year’s Grammy’s.
First, from the Food Integrity Campaign of the Governmental Accountability Project (“Chipotle Ad Criticizes Industrial Agriculture but Ignores Worker Rights,” 2/13/12):
“In addition to animal rights and environmental health, food integrity also means acknowledging an important issue that Chipotle has ignored: the routine exploitation of food workers. Many employees in the food industry lack a voice at all, despite their position to stop a problem before it threatens the food supply. Chipotle’s branding suggests a deeper look at where our food comes from, but they are missing the number one go-to source for real transparency: workers in their supply chain, who are all potential whistleblowers.
When given the opportunity to improve the integrity of its suppliers, Chipotle said no. The chain has refused to sign the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Fair Food agreement, which would support better labor conditions for tomato farmworkers in Florida (which accounts for one-third of U.S.-grown tomatoes). Grocery chain Trader Joe’s finally signed on last week after a long campaign effort by CIW, joining Whole Foods, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway.
So while Chipotle’s commercial makes a powerful statement about the current state of U.S. agriculture, a major component is still missing. Chipotle’s outright rejection of worker rights in its “food with integrity” mantra makes you wonder if the restaurant chain is serious about making concrete changes in our food system or if it’s simply just PR.” read more
“I see one fly in the Chipotle kitchen, though, and it’s the company’s attitude toward labor practices….Second, from On Earth (“Chipotle’s Grammy Ad: Great Farming Practices, or Just Great Filmmaking?” 2/15/12):
Let’s hope Chipotle continues to encourage humane treatment, throughout its food supply chain, so it can truly live up to the commitment to “Food With Integrity.” Here’s an idea: maybe its next film could expose the plight of farm workers and announce the company’s adoption of the Fair Food pledge. Now that’s an idea that would definitely bring tears to my eyes.” read more
Stay tuned for more news from the Campaign for Fair Food!