Food With Integrity
When you hear the words “fast food”, the last thing you probably think of is sustainable farming. Chipotle Mexican Grill and founder Steve Ells are on a mission to change that. The popular burrito joint has exploded in the past decade by committing fast food heresy: telling customers where its food comes from.
Ever since Ells opened the first Chipotle restaurant in Denver in 1993, the chain has been committed to a culture of transparency. Each one of its more than 1,200 locations has an open kitchen where ingredients are cooked right in front of customers, and it’s those ingredients that really set Chipotle apart from the competition. Chipotle sources as much food as possible from sustainable, family owned farms.
The company calls it “Food With Integrity”. It buys local lettuce and produce when in season, its dairy products come from cows raised without synthetic growth hormones, and 100% of its pork comes from naturally raised pigs.
It’s easy to see why serving natural, nutrient-dense food would be good for customers, but Chipotle’s Food With Integrity program has had even greater, farther-reaching effects. According to CMO Mark Crumpacker, when the company decided to remove factory farmed pork from its restaurants in 2001, there were about 50 to 60 farms in the country raising natural pork. Now there are closer to 700.
That’s a more than 1,000% increase in family-owned farms raising pigs naturally and sustainably.
By putting the ingredients first and educating its customers about what they are eating, Chipotle has created an entire ecosystem of small farms and businesses. Compare that to other fast food giants, whose value menus have only helped to shutter family farms and drive demand for “Frankenfood” such as pink slime.
Now that Chipotle has firmly charted itself on a path to success, it would be easy to rest on its laurels and watch the cash roll in. Ells has only set the company’s sights higher, however. Chipotle hopes to soon source 100% of its chicken from farms that do not use antibiotics or feed additives like arsenic.
Chipotle is also on a long-term mission to buy 100% naturally raised beef by “poking, prodding, convincing, and occasionally applying guilt” to ranchers to get them to change their practices. If Chipotle’s success in revolutionizing the pork industry is any indicator, there is little doubt that it will succeed.
A fast food company that creates small businesses rather than destroy them. Who would have thought?