Thursday, September 12, 2013

I may be raising a vegetarian.

My youngest daughter is fond of animals. Living animals, stuffed animals, imagined animals, whatever happens to be on hand or on her mind. She is also a bit sensitive regarding the things she reads, hears, sees and so on. These are all things that I should have kept in mind this evening as I showed her and my other daughter the new Chipotle video about factory farming.

You should just go watch the video now. Here's a copy:

I love having a large company push back hard against big agri-business and factory farming. I love it so much I want everyone to see it. Even my youngest daughter who watched the whole thing and was fine until I turned the lights out, kissed her goodnight, and closed her door. Shortly thereafter she came out crying.

It was the sad cow that did it.

In the video, when the scarecrow has to help seal up the part of the cow that's coming apart, he looks inside and sees a terrified cow hooked up to some horrible machine. The scarecrow is deeply troubled by the sight but closes the cow up in the dark because that's his job.

This was too much for my girl. The cow was too sad.

I told her that it was okay, that the end of the video is leading to a happier time when people buy food that is locally and humanely grown. Even as I said it, I knew that she was thinking something along the lines of, "that's not going to help that poor sad cow!" True that, little girl. True that.

The next thing I thought to say died on the way from my brain to my throat. I was going to tell her that it was just a story and not true. Sure, that particular cow isn't real, but there are far too many real cows suffering much worse fates and the ag-gag laws keep anyone, even scarecrows, from looking in on their conditions. Then there are the chickens. It's a massacre, a horror being perpetrated so that I can stroll the aisles of Wegmans any time of the day or night and pick up some ribeye.

I got my little girl calmed down enough to go to sleep and then, as luck would have it, needed to go to Wegmans to get some flea stuff for the cats, a couple of peppers to make fajitas tomorrow, and some chicken for Sunday. I won't be eating it since I'm working hard to give up all meat. I'm not sure my youngest will eat it either, but just in case, you bet your ass I bought organic, free-range, humanely treated chicken. It cost a lot more than Perdue's crap and that's fine by me. Instead of buying twelve split chicken breasts, I got three and that ought to do.

There is genius in Chipotle's marketing campaign that I have noticed a lot of people missing. The video is ostensibly a commercial for a Chipotle video game for the iPhone and iPad. The game is marketed directly to kids. And the goal of that marketing is to get kids to think about where their food comes from.

An article online said that this marketing campaign, which forgoes incorporating Chipotle branding, won't help them sell more burritos, but I disagree. This is long-term thinking here. The video will, in the short-term, get the attention of people like me, but it's the long-term effect of having made my daughter think only of the sad cow's fate that will pay off for Chipotle. First, it's going to make her want to eat food from an ethical company. Second, it's going to make her want ethically raised food from the supermarket. That's going to increase the demand for such things which will, eventually, lead to lower prices for Chipotle's source materials.

It's the difference between advertising for the next quarter and looking at the next couple decades. I like that kind of thinking. It's the sort of thing I want to invest in. And the marketing campaign pushes me even farther toward divesting completely from factory food.

Still, I'm small potatoes compared with my daughter. At best, I've got fifty-five years of consumption left. She's likely to have eighty or ninety years to go and will raise her own children someday.

Viral videos start with one or two people and spread. Okay, maybe they start with 10,000 people and spread, but it's the same idea. This is viral social engineering that Chipotle is working on. They aren't selling burritos, they're selling a new way of looking at food. It just so happens that they are particularly well-positioned to sell to consumers such as my daughter who can eat their burritos knowing that she isn't making any cows sad.


Write on.