Why the Media Should Stop Bullying Chipotle

My wife Hilary and I were watching Bill Maher the other night. It’s a late-night routine we have. Like usual, it was very entertaining and quite informative, but something he said in this episode really bothered me. Talking about the Amazonian tribes that remain disconnected from our modern world, he made a quip that upon introducing them to today’s society, we’d have to inform them that “we don’t eat grubs, ants, or fungus. But, if you really miss it, try Chipotle.” Ouch!

Ever since Chipotle experienced its first e.coli outbreak late last year, the company has been under near-constant assault by multiple members of the media. Bill Maher’s comment is just one example in a barrage of media bullying.

This pisses me off for a few important reasons.

Firstly, our culture seems to enjoy kicking do-gooders when they’re down. Maybe it’s something we all learned in high school when jocks bullied the the non-jocks. Or maybe it’s a case of “See? They’re not that great after all” mean-spirited satisfaction. Either way, it sucks and we shouldn’t condone it.

Second, and more importantly, the last thing we should be doing is bullying a company that is genuinely trying to improve the industry it operates in. As many of you know, Chipotle has developed a reputation of providing healthier options for its hungry customers (mostly non-GMO produce, vegetables grown in healthy soil, etc.), in addition to offering more humane options as well. Their pork is from pigs that are allowed to freely root and roam outdoors (or in deeply bedded barns), versus the tightly caged pigs most fast food chains serve up. They’ll even take an ingredient off the menu temporarily if they can’t source it to their standards. Would McDonald’s do that? You’re damn right they wouldn’t!

They also source meat from farms that avoid using unnecessary antibiotics and hormones. In case you were unaware, the vast majority of farm animals are raised on a steady diet of pharmaceuticals that you end up ingesting, including ‘preventative’ antibiotics (due to the disgusting and cramped conditions they’re raised in), and growth hormones (‘nuff said). These have horrible effects on the animals, to say nothing of the negative human health effects (…want the antibiotics you take when you’re really sick to actually work? Me too).

In a nutshell, Chipotle’s meat is healthier, and their approach could help you live longer and be less likely to get seriously ill. Hard to argue with, right?

If anything, we should be giving Chipotle a free pass. They had an outbreak — yes. But they were open about it, they worked quickly to fix it, and they didn’t shy away from their responsibility to protect their customers.

So let’s not kick them while they’re down. Let’s lend a hand, help dust them off, and allow them to get back to being the aspirational company most of us have come to love.

As for me, I’m doing my part. I’m off to grab a bite from one of the Chipotle stores around the corner. One Sofritas (tofu) bowl to go, coming up!