Two words: exploding cows. That’s the problem caused by industrial agriculture in a new satirical miniseries, Farmed and Dangerous, created by fast-food-with-integrity chain Chipotle (CMG). The four-episode series makes its debut on Hulu next month.
In case you couldn’t tell, subtlety isn’t a big part of Farmed and Dangerous. The series follows fictional company Animoil’s attempts to market a new animal feed made of petroleum, PetroPellet, despite its unfortunate side effect of making cows blow up. Animoil’s efforts with its PR agency to manipulate the public into believing PetroPellet is safe are thwarted by an idealistic farmer who decides to launch his own public-relations assault.
About two hours long in total, is the series a bit overkill? Farmers have criticized Chipotle’s prior marketing efforts as inaccurate and manipulative. It launched a game and video last year, The Scarecrow, and a TV ad in 2011 that promoted similar anti-industrial agriculture themes. “The message is not realistic nor does it paint an accurate image of modern agriculture,” wrote cattleman and blogger Ryan Goodman about The Scarecrow. The agricultural news website cattlenetwork.com published a story Monday about Farmed and Dangerous with the headline: “Chipotle revs up more anti-ag propaganda.”
“Farmed and Dangerous is satire,” responded Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold. “It doesn’t represent any single issue or any entity. The idea is to take a legitimate issue in ag as a starting point, but satirizing it as a way to spark conversation about all of this. We find that bringing people into these discussions using entertainment is a very effective tool. In the end, it’s satire.”
Farmed and Dangerous cost about $250,000 an episode, reported the New York Times. Arnold did not confirm the figure but said in an e-mail: “Our marketing budget continues to be in the neighborhood of 1.75 percent of sales.” The company’s advertising and marketing budget was $35 million in 2012, up from $26.2 million in 2010.