Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chipotle -- A Healthy Foodie's Hero

I've always liked Chipotle better than any other fast-food restaurant, and now I've learned that they are leaders in supporting sustainable, humane, organic food production methods -- going against the grain of our industrial food system and accepting lower profits as the cost of taking this stand.

From Time Magazine's cover story dated 8/31/09 ("The Real Cost of Cheap Food") --

"[T]he Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle...now sources its pork from Niman Ranch*and gets its other meats and much of its beans from natural and organic sources. It's part of a commitment that Chipotle founder Steve Ells made years ago, not just because sustainable ingredients were better for the planet but because they tasted better too--a philosophy he calls food with integrity. It's not cheap for Chipotle--food makes up more than 32% of its costs, the highest in the fast-food industry. But to Ells, the taste more than compensates....'We put a lot of energy into finding farmers who are committed to raising better food,' says Ells."
Bravo and three cheers, Chipotle!

By the way, early in this decade McDonald's was a majority owner of Chipotle, but it pulled out in 2006. The company has thrived since then and now has more than 500 locations, including more than 15 in metro Cincinnati.

* Niman Ranch "has knitted together hundreds of small-scale farmers into a network that sells all-natural pork, beef and lamb to retailers and restaurants. In doing so, it leverages economies of scale while letting the farmers take proper care of their land and animals."


  1. I've never been to Chipotle, but this post makes me want to try it sometime.

  2. Hooray for "all natural" meat... but not really.

    If it's not certified organic it doesn't mean squat... Basically Niman Ranch is saying they do things right and we should take their word for it...

    Chipotle is taking baby steps just so they can claim they care about ingredients, or care about organic... but they don't make organic claims because they're not organic. The consumer has no guarantee that it is anything.

    Just PR spin if you ask me... and it looks like you fell for it. All the big companies do it... Like Whole Foods' "all natural" salad bar. Come on...

    Aside from all of that, Chipotle is pretty abysmal for you. Excessive white flour (no brown rice or wheat tortilla option), excessive sodium, excessive calories, etc.

    All the same trappings of fast food, just dressed up in "all natural" logos.

  3. Andrew,
    Lauding ANY fast-food company is a risky business and I expected to hear from dissenters. But I am as skeptical of self-serving claims from corporate America as most people--Whole Foods, Stoneyfield Farm, even Walmart are trying to appear "green" and health-oriented. After reading the Time Magazine article, I checked various sources (NOT including Chipotle's own website) and found confirmation that the company is taking at least some "baby steps" in the right direction.
    Yes they could improve, a lot -- I would love to see a whole wheat tortilla or brown rice there, for instance. But I have been able to customize my orders there--going for the soft tortillas over the grossly large burritos--to minimize calories, maximize fiber, and tolerate the sodium (even there you can minimize it if you try).
    Why are you skeptical about Niman Ranch? Any move away from industrialized meat production is something to be encouraged, IMHO.