Chipotle is the target of a new attack ad.
It accuses the burrito chain of deceptively marketing its food as free of added hormones.
The ad claims that Chipotle’s tofu — called Sofritas — and beans contain more hormones than meat from animals who have been given hormones.
The ad features a shirtless obese man and this message: “Sofritas burrito: Estrogen in every bite!”
The ad is the third in a series of Chipotle attack ads funded by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC, that lobbies for food companies.
In a press release, the CCF cites a study by the director of the Iowa Beef Center at the University of Iowa — which supports the beef industry — claiming that pinto beans contain 128,571 times more estrogen than beef from cattle that have been given hormones and that tofu contains 16 million times more estrogen.
Like the other ads, this one was printed as a full page in the New York Post and it directs people to the website ChubbyChipotle.com.
The Chubby Chipotle site goes beyond the deceptive marketing claims and takes aim at Chipotle’s commitment to antibiotic-free meat, saying it’s unhealthy for animals because these medicines are used to treat sick animals.
The website slams Chipotle for dropping genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, because they are widely recognised as safe.
“Whether it’s added hormones, GMOs, or antibiotics, Chipotle makes all sorts of claims to make its food seem healthier or more ethical, but these all fall flat on their face when looked at objectively,” Will Coggin, director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom, said in a statement. “There’s no problem with genetically modified foods or hormones present in foods (according to scientists), or giving antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy. But there is a problem with Chipotle pretending to be something it isn’t and deceiving consumers in order to sell its high-calorie burritos.”
We reached out to Chipotle about the ad and will update when we hear back.
In an interview last month, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold called CCF’s first ad a smear campaign.
“This whole thing is a ridiculous smear campaign based on inaccurate representations of our positions and orchestrated by the Center for Consumer Freedom on behalf of its unknown supporters,” Arnold said. “We have always been very transparent in the way we run our business and in the challenges we face.”
Chipotle’s commitment to fresh ingredients and the ethical treatment of animals has helped it achieve massive success over the past two decades. But the chain has hit bumps along the way.
Chipotle had to stop serving pork at hundreds of restaurants this year after discovering that one of its suppliers was violating its animal-treatment standards.
The chain has had to serve “conventionally raised” steak (from cattle raised with antibiotics and hormones) in some markets to meet demand.
Arnold says there’s nothing deceiving about Chipotle’s marketing
“Chipotle has done more to influence positive change in the nation’s food system than any other restaurant company, and the claims we make about our business are honest, transparent and entirely defensible,” he said. “The desperate and misdirected attacks from the less-than-forthcoming Center for Consumer Freedom won’t change that.”
The Washington Post points out that the Center for Consumer Freedom was founded by Rick Berman, a lobbyist who was “famous for arguing on behalf of big food companies and against big health initiatives.”
When The Post asked Coggin about CCF’s funding for the anti-Chipotle campaign, Coggin said no company or groups of companies are behind it.
“It’s just a project of ours,” he told The Post.
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