The factory-farm exposé video — our contemporary horror flick — is a genre that’s evolved from grainy handheld to sophisticated filmmaking. Now even corporations are getting in on the act, with the fast-food chain Chipotle releasing a digitally animated narrative video as a promo for an app game. Both are titled “The Scarecrow,” and are designed to promote Chipotle’s commitment to sustainable, even GMO-free food. As the company’s website puts it:
Processed food, animal confinement, and the use of synthetic growth hormones, non-therapeutic antibiotics, and toxic pesticides are rampant in our food supply. Educating people about alternatives is a journey for the Scarecrow, and it continues to be a journey for us.
The Scarecrow video — in which a scarecrow who works in a factory full of confined, injected livestock decides to rebel by growing and cooking his own food, then sharing it with others — quickly went viral. As Gawker noted, “Chipotle has high hopes that ‘The Scarecrow’ will officially cement its status as a fast-food chain with a brain.”
On NPR’s food blog, The Salt, Eliza Barclay was a little more skeptical:
Chipotle’s gleaming, super-efficient stores and revenue of over $800 million are more Big Food than taco stand. (McDonald’s was even an investor for a spell.) But the chain seems to want to show solidarity with the emerging class of entrepreneurial artisans making food from scratch. We’re the good guys, fighting the bad guys, it whispers.
“The Scarecrow” is only the second video ad ever produced by Chipotle; the first, released in 2011, featured an animated Big Ag farmer seeing the error of his ways and returning to small-scale family farming. The real question, of course, is: Can Chipotle live up to the standards of its own videos?
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