Chick-fil-A Has a New Children's Book Loaded with Propaganda to Conceal the Horrors of Corporate Agriculture
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They don’t want kids to equate a Chick-fil-A sandwich with inhumane treatment of chickens in crowded factory farms — they want kids to equate that sandwich with the page in the “Jolly Barnyard” where Farmer Brown feeds his chickens a treat while they roam free. They don’t want kids to equate a Chick-fil-A meal with the unsustainable and often unsafe monoculture practices of corporate agribusiness — they want kids to equate that meal with the agriculturally diverse operations of individuals like Farmer Brown.
In short, they don’t want my son and his fellow two-year-olds to equate Chick-fil-A with what Chick-fil-A really is — they want them to equate it with the very Jolly Barnyard it and its fellow fast-food behemoths have helped destroy. And so the company has re-published the 1950 classic under its name, and with its logo stamped right on the front cover. The message to tykes is clear: When you think Chick-fil-A, think “Jolly Barnyard.”
Of course, Chick-fil-A’s “Jolly Barnyard” is hardly the most egregious advertising ploy from the fast-food industry. It is certainly less a hard sell of a specific product than a soft pitch for a larger brand. But that subtlety, reflected in so many similar child-focused marketing schemes, reveals a sophisticated calculation that will almost certainly pervade my son’s childhood even if (and when, I promise!) I get rid of the specific Chick-fil-A book in his room. That’s because all sorts of companies — whether through co-branded toys, books or educational material in schools – are betting that kids’ early cognition offers possibilities for both brand loyalty and brand redefinition. They are betting that there is no better time to wire the synapses of future consumers than when those consumers are first becoming aware of their world.
And here’s the thing that haunts me as a parent: If a pillar of factory farming can try to convince my two-year-old son that it represents the ideals of family agriculture, what won’t the Mad Men try to convince him to believe?