Dear Chipotle: Let’s Not Be At Odds, Farm Families Aren’t Evil


chipotle big food scarecrow advertisement

Attacks by Chipotle Mexican Grill on our country’s food system have hit the heart of American farming and ranching families, something their marketing team fails to recognize. One of these farming families includes Bob and Mary Mertz, 4th generation farmers from Riley County, Kansas who raise Simmental cattle, soybeans, corn, and sheep for 4-H and FFA youth livestock shows. Learn more about the Mertz family in this video feature from their farm.

After observing recent Chipotle Cultivate events and noting the missing voice of farming and ranching families in these conversations, Mary Mertz became frustrated and wanted her story to be heard. Mary recently wrote a letter to Steve Ells, founder and Co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, asking him to reconsider his company’s false-marketing impact on farming families like her own. Mary was kind enough to share this letter with me after sending it to Ells earlier this month.

Take a moment to read the letter and share with friends how major companies like Chipotle are causing harm to American farm and ranch families by misrepresenting our communities in their marketing campaigns. Mary challenges other farmers and ranchers to reach out to Chipotle with their individual stories of how the false narratives painted by the company’s marketing impact your families. Share those stories online and use the #AgProud hashtag so we can pass your story along.


Mary Mertz Kansas Farmer Letter to Chipotle
Bob and Mary Mertz, 4th generation farmers from Riley County, Kansas. Image via Facebook

Dear Steve Ells:

Have you ever been to Kansas? There are many farmers here. I am married to a fourth generation grain farmer and have been for close to thirty years now. We use GMO seeds to grow our corn and soybeans. We are currently finishing up our 2015 harvest.

I felt compelled to write to you because of the decision you have made to go “nonGMO” in your Chipotle restaurants. I know that you know that foods grown using biotechnology are both as safe and nutritious as those grown by any other methods. I find it incredulous that you seem to think throwing millions of conventional family farm members under the bus in order to make a profit is somehow okay.

Do you know what your propaganda and misleading statements due to the morale of the American farmer? We spend every day working hard to produce food, fuel, and fiber. We dedicate our lives to producing the best for our nation and world. Then we are accosted by events like Chipotle Cultivate that strives to indoctrinate the minds of impressionable consumers with fear tactics and myths. Beginning with your animated Scarecrow film, which greatly distorted the reality of agriculture, my disappointment in your lack of integrity, has only grown deeper.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Marketing Kansas FarmersApproximately 95% of the farms in this country our family farms. My husband and I have personally raised our children next to, working in, walking through GMO fields. We have eaten our GMO grain and grass fed beef for twenty years. There is absolutely no detrimental health issues associated with eating GMOs – as every credible health, science, and government organization has stated. The vegetables and fruits are the same nutritionally as foods produced any other way. We actually use less chemicals today than before GMOs were available. We till our land less often, which keeps nutrients and carbon in the ground. We use less fuel and less water. These changes are significant and help the environment.  To have you, a billionaire restaurant owner, suggest that our crops are somehow not safe is simply appalling and unfair.

Please, Mr. Ells, reconsider the message you are sending to America’s consumers. Farmers do not go around seeking thanks or acknowledgement in any form for what they do. They live to farm and they are intelligent and conscientious enough to know what they are doing.  We all want to leave our land in better shape than when we first began farming it. We care about our environment, our world, all children, and the truth.

It would be nice to work together instead of to be at odds with one another. You have a right to your opinion, but you have a moral obligation not to intentionally hurt innocent people by spreading lies about what they produce.  I would be happy to discuss this further with you. Or, if you are ever near Kansas, stop by our farm and take a tour.

Sincerely,

Mary Mertz
Manhattan, Kansas


Chipotle Mexican Grill markets their 1,700+ restaurants as having Food With Integrity, despite lacking that integrity in their serving unhealthy burritos to consumers. During the past few years, the company has been called out over their lack of integrity in marketing campaigns, which was highlighted during a series of phone calls with Chipotle’s NYC marketing team.

More recently, their announcement to remove all GMO ingredients from their menu was met with great criticism as media outlets across the country called Chipotle out on the mistake.

See my previous coverage of Chipotle Mexican Grill here.

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10 Comments

  1. Hmmm…don’t know what I was thinking. I can’t really post the way I was going to without copying and pasting – so I’ll just share it as is, and we’ll see. I was always looking at some stats related to family farms from the USDA. 95/97% doesn’t really give the whole picture. There’s a group that does a lot of research and programming related to sustainable agriculture that I follow — Civil Eats. Ever come across them? I’m thinking I might look to them to help me some some contradictory information. – btw, I look at Chipotle in a new way thanks to you. 🙂 – Leslie

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * Leslie A. Cook leslie@vegetatingwithleslie.org http://www.vegetatingwithleslie.org

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  2. Did you mean the Mertz family? To be honest, that’s kind of judgemental (unfortunately, that’s the society we live in today) to be judging someone’s health and lifestyle on one photo. I do my best to promote my message by living a healthy lifestyle. Others do as well, but it’s not my job to judge them on their decisions.

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  3. My sister in law, growing up in ag and on a ranch, believes whole heartedly that all chicken from anything but a small local farm is pumped with hormones, despite me showing her the USDA and FDA rules banning hormones from poultry productions. I blame her living in the city the last five years watching propoganda such as chipolte’s videos. She should know better but apparently its really easy to get disconnected….

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  4. My family makes a living ranching/farming as well. However, I chose to look for unbiased sources for my facts. I won’t buy the propaganda form Monsanto-funded studies. That’s tantamount to asking the fox to guard the hen house. Just because the fox hasn’t caught up to you yet, doesn’t mean your a safe hen. To my knowledge, the USDA has not led any studies on the safety of GMOs. They have left that to the very companies selling you the GMO seeds. Sounds a little fishy, to say the least. I think a deeper look into GMOs, Roundup and Glyphosate is warranted by all people, farmers included.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Bobby. We do have several researchers working out there independent of companies who have looked at this issue. This article has a discussion and several links to use as resources – https://agricultureproud.com/2014/05/02/questions-about-genetic-modification-student-brings-attention-to-gmo-in-c-span-documentary/

      As far as people being scared about industry supporting researchers in these topics, the best solution would begin promoting better funding of our academic institutions. Research costs money and Universities need that funding to conduct research. Until we contribute to their funding, we should stop complaining about industry-supported findings.

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      1. Ryan, the article and video you site both say that safety of GMOs has not been proven. They also raise many other questions about the moral and ethical nature of GMO seed companies, especially in their dealings with farmers. As a farmer, that doesn’t sound like someone I want to do business with. An article that explains many of the problems with GMOs and lists many retracted pro-GMO related studies – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/03/03/toxic-industrial-standards-no-longer-visible.aspx.

        In any event, if there is a question of safety, shouldn’t we proceed with caution?

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