The real winner of the Grammys: Chipotle


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Photo credit: Chipotle

The most mesmerizing and moving part of Sunday night’s Grammys wasn’t Adele’s performance or the Whitney Houston tribute. It was the Chipotle commercial.

The two-minute ad, titled “Back to the Start,” is set to a powerful Willie Nelson cover of the Coldplay song “The Scientist” and features stop-motion animation to portray a family farmer who realizes the importance of sustainable agriculture. (Scroll down to watch.)

In the beginning of the video, the farmer decides to switch to factory farming, and what appeared to be a happy farm morphs into one with penned-up animals that are sent to factories and pumped with antibiotics. The farmer then begins contemplating the harsh living conditions of his livestock and the potential consequences of the system he’s adopted.

Just as Nelson croons “I’m going back to the start,” the farmer realizes his mistake and fervently begins taking apart all of the buildings holding the farm animals, allowing them to roam free in open pastures once again. The ad concludes with the farmer loading his products onto a Chipotle Mexican Grill truck, which drives away, leaving him and his family satisfied with the business they’re running and leaving the viewer with a message: “Cultivate a better world. Chipotle.com,” as well as encouragement to download the song on iTunes to benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to creating and raising awareness of sustainable and healthy food.

The imaginative video was uploaded to YouTube in August, accumulating more than 4.7 million views (as of Feb. 13), and aired in about 5,700 movie theaters, according to Ad Age. However, its airtime during the Grammys made it Chipotle’s first national advertisement in the company’s 18-year history.

And it’s safe to say it made an impression. These are just a few of the reactions on Twitter:

  • @MichaelAusiello 90 minutes in and the highlight of the #Grammys is that Chipotle commercial.
  • @elleburdi My favorite part of the Grammys was the Chipotle commercial.
  • @poniewozik Coldplay-based Chipotle commercial > actual Coldplay performance #grammys


The short film promotes the Mexican restaurant chain’s “Food With Integrity” philosophy, described on the company’s website as “Chipotle’s commitment to changing traditional ‘fast food’ culture by serving customers the very best ingredients, all raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.”

“Delicious, affordable food can be produced without exploiting the farmers, the animals or the environment,” said Steve Ells, chairman of the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. “Chipotle has proven this to be true, but Chipotle is only one small part of the solution. Our goal now should be to have all food produced as sustainably as possible.”

The Willie Nelson cover is being sold on iTunes for 99 cents, and according to the New York Times, it had been downloaded about 25,000 times as of Feb. 9. At least 70% of the track’s proceeds will benefit the Cultivate Foundation.

Chipotle produced another short film, called “Abandoned,” back in October, using the vocal talent of Karen O., lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to cover Willie Nelson and Wayton Jennings’ “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” The video was an advertisement to promote Chipotle’s annual Boorito fundraiser, which helped raise money for Farm Aid and the Cultivate Foundation, and explored the economic hardships farmers face in an increasingly industrialized agricultural system. “Abandoned” can be viewed here.

Chipotle’s sustainability stance:
5 facts about where your burrito came from

  1. Chipotle works with sustainable family farms.
  2. Chipotle serves more naturally raised meat and local produce than any other restaurant company in the United States, according to the company’s website.
  3. Dairy used in Chipotle’s food come from cows raised without the use of synthetic hormones.
  4. While American pork producers use more than 10 million pounds of antibiotics per year to prevent disease in their confined pigs, all meat served at Chipotle is naturally raised, “coming from animals that are raised in a humane way and without the use of antibiotics or added hormones,” according to Fox News.
  5. According to its website, Chipotle has contributed more than $2 million in the past several years to initiatives that support sustainable agriculture, family farming and culinary education, including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the Nature Conservancy.