Chipotle Mexican Grill, the “gourmet burrito” company, can be considered more of a cult than just a restaurant in some circles. Fans of the company will often go to many lengths in order to get one of these burritos. In fact, many Bucknellians have been known to drive the 56 miles to State College, the closest restaurant to Lewisburg, in order to get a burrito or two. Chipotle has a section of their site dedicated solely to their fans, where they can go to post pictures and share Chipotle stories with one another. However, it is not only the popularity of these restaurants that has given Chipotle a lot of attention lately, but also its food sourcing practices. Chipotle’s attitude towards food sourcing and their business practices stems from their mission statement:
Chipotle attempts to live by their motto in the way they approach three different aspects of food sourcing: animals, people, and the environment.
Chipotle pushes their suppliers to treat their animals in a manner that they would be in their natural state. This means that the chicken, pork, and beef they buy is from farms that use open range and naturally raised standards. Chipotle’s goal is to have 100% of their suppliers stop using antibiotics and chemicals in their livestock’s food. They also look for suppliers that keep their livestock outside in open range rather than in confined concrete and steel pens. Chipotle believes that this leads to happier and healthier animals and better tasting food.
Another big facet of Chiptole’s “Food With Integrity” is locally sourced food. They state that they prefer to work with smaller, local farms, even though they sometimes have to go to bigger farms to better serve their customer. The people aspect of “Food With Integrity” also aims to cover their employees as well. Chipotle often looks to employ newly arrived US citizens to help them get a new start in the US. They provide training, cultural acclimation services, and English language services to anyone who requests it. Chipotle also prefers to promote from within rather than look outside the company to keep a community feel within their employees.
There are a number of environmental policies aimed at sustainability. The people behind the big decisions at Chipotle are big proponents of organic food. This helps with the environmental awareness aspect of “Food With Integrity” in a couple ways. By going organic, helps reduce the amount of waste involved in producing and using pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Chipotle also mentions family farms for environmental reasons, not just people reasons. Chipotle argues that family farms need their land to be sustainable in order to continue having a livelihood, they avoid harmful farming practices, such as monocultures, where one plant is harvested over and over on the same soil, which goes against the natural diversity of ecosystems and depletes the soil.
Chipotle has made an effort to create a gourmet burrito with organic, healthy ingredients to make the Mexican food experience a healthier one. But, how effective can this health push be when its customers are scarfing down two pound burritos wrapped in tin foil? According to a Men’s Health report on the “20 Worst Foods in America“, Chipotle was dubbed the most unhealthy Mexican entree. While the individual ingredients may be free range, organic, and healthy, the combination of all these ingredients, when the tortilla, rice, meat, beans, and veggies are all accounted for, total over a thousand calories or about two standard meals.
Although Chipotle’s mission statement has good values at its core, its execution leaves a little to be desired. It’s obvious that they push for open/free range conditions for their food and that they have the environment in mind with their policies. However, the people portion of the mission statement is pretty thin. They state that they try to source from smaller, local farms, but that they sometimes use bigger farms to keep cost down. They often refer to the fact that they have “several policies” in place to protect human and animal rights without explicitly stating what these policies are. They put a big emphasis on locally and organically sourcing, but say that can often only source a little bit in this manner, setting at least 50% of one food item as their goal (seems a little low doesn’t it?).
Chipotle’s mindset is in the right place. Although they are a huge company, they don’t want to be a corporate monster that gives little thought to the effects of their food-sourcing and only focuses on cutting costs. While “Food With Integrity” has a number of great ideas and policies in place, Chipotle may still need some time to reach their goals. They seem to avoid sourcing from suppliers who implement harmful practices whenever it is possible, but the costs involved with doing so seem to be keeping them from fully realizing their goals.
Chipotle has some lofty goals in place. They don’t hide from the fact that they can’t currently reach all their goals. But they’re working on it. Given some time and some more effort, Chipotle may be able to set a gold standard for food-sourcing practices.