This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).


The first time I saw Back to the Start, I almost started crying. I couldn’t believe that a mainstream company, even one as progressive as Chipotle, would release something like this. Sometimes I get lost in my little bubble of foodie-Santa Barbara where people discuss GMOs, CAFOs, Monstanto, and the Farm Bill at dinner parties. Then, I’ll visit friends out of town and realize that the American food norm is far, far away from my little world. A corporate company making a video about factory farming is abnormal.

I honestly thought that everyone had seen it (make sure to scroll down to the bottom for the making-of video too!). Except, when I asked my dad, brother and best friend, they hadn’t heard about it. Perhaps airing the video during the Grammys wasn’t enough?

I want all eaters to see this movie! Why? Because in 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Chipotle manages to tell a simple story of a farmer who moves from a sustainable family farm to an industrial animal factory and then realizes he needs to go back to where he started. I believe in baby steps. I believe that everyone needs to understand where their food comes from and how it’s made. That’s why my brother and I started Be Food Smart in the first place. In the food movement, there is so much talk about reaching those beyond “the choir.” The beauty of this mini movie is its simplicity and ability to reach the mainstream with a message they are not hearing right now. While Chipotle is certainly not perfect, they are a tiny stride in the right direction and, quite frankly, the food movement needs all the help it can get.

Watch now:

What do you think of the video? Take our quick poll.



As you can tell from the poll, Chipotle’s video is controversial. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the Edible Institute, a food movement conference put on by Edible Communities. One of the guest speakers was Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s Director of Communications, and he showed Back to the Start during his panel discussion. This is an excerpt from my conference recap which highlights the Chipotle debate:

The Chipotle story is truly fascinating. Founder Steve Ells essentially threw out the fast food restaurant model and started from scratch when he opened the first Chipotle restaurant in 1993. Over the years, the chain has grown and evolved to include: organic black beans, no dairy (sour cream and cheese) from cows treated with rBGH growth hormones, only antibiotic-free chicken, and are working towards a higher percentage of naturally raised beef and local suppliers. Arnold notes that, “We have the highest food cost of any restaurant [chain] in the industry and the highest profits…while we’re far from perfect, it’s surprising that more restaurant companies haven’t followed our model.” In 2000, Chipotle decided to move to all sustainably-raised pork and this meant a $1 increase to the carnitas for the customers. Arnold explains that many of their customers eat at Chipotle because they like the food, not because of any social message.

Throughout the conference, I used my phone to follow the twitter feed devoted to EI (#edi2012). At one point during Arnold’s talk, Daniel Klein posted this note on Twitter: For those of you who may not know, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (“CIW”) is a community-based organization working to increase wages of farm workers in Southwest Florida. They target national restaurant chains and supermarkets pressuring them to pay small incremental costs on produce which in turn goes directly to increase farm worker wages. Companies such as Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Whole Foods, Subway and most recently Trader Joe’s agreed to abide by Campaign for Fair Food demands. As you may have gathered, Chipotle has yet to sign on with CIW. They have received backlash from activists touting the hypocrisy of Chipotle’s slogan, food made with integrity while simultaneously refusing to sign with CIW. Barry Estabrook was the one who actually stood up and asked the question of the Chipotle’s director. Arnold responded that essentially there is more than one way to do something and they have their own agreements with suppliers. Things got even more heavy when Daniel Klein stood up and said he no longer eats at Chipotle because of this issue. While I believe that Chipotle needs to get on board with CIW or at least be completely transparent about what they ARE doing to ensure fair wages, I give them credit for all the amazing things they are already doing. Also, kudos is due for them showing up at food movement conference like this as our peeps can be a bit scary!  Click here to read the full recap.

Regardless of how you feel about Chipotle, Back to the Start is downright impressive when it comes to stop-motion. Below is an 8 minute video explaining how they actually made Back to the Start. It involved weeks of filming, 875 trees, hundreds of miniature animals, 3D printing and a whole lot of patience. Definitely worth a watch.