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.


6 responses »

  1. Paul Martin says:

    Marc makes a number of good comments and has clearly done the appropriate research. I was actually going to write about Chipotle myself, but I’m glad I read Marc’s post first. One thing I was curious about that Marc didn’t mention is Chipotle’s origins as part of McDonald’s. I wonder if some of these heath and quality standards were instituted by McDonald’s, or whether they have become increasingly more important since Chipotle’s IPO. One thing that I wanted to comment on was Marc’s point that despite all of Chipotle’s efforts to provide a healthy and quality product, the sheer size and calorie count of a burrito might negate those health standards. My response to this would be that it is not Chipotle’s job to teach portion control; they absolutely are providing a healthy alternative to what many other restaurant/fast food places supply, and it is entirely up to the consumer to decide how much they want to eat. An equal sized burrito from most other places would probably be less healthy, and the ingredients would most likely be of worse quality and come from places with questionable standards.

    • mwh011 says:

      I’m glad that you brought up the topic of McDonald’s ownership. I wanted to talk about it somewhere, but didn’t exactly know where it would fit. From what I could gather from my research, Chipotle wasn’t actually started by McDonald’s as I had originally thought but it was a minor investor in 1998 and became the biggest investor by 2001, the same year that “Food With Integrity” was started. I couldn’t find any actual ties between McDonald’s and the mission statement, and the Chipotle’s website made it seem like it was more of a push from its founder, Steve Ells, than any other factor. McDonald’s cut ties with Chipotle in 2006 the same year as their IPO.

      I agree with your point that it’s not really Chipotle’s place to worry about portion control. It just seems like a strange dynamic to have a restaurant that pushes health food, but serves in most popular item in 1000 calorie portions. I just think that when Chipotle was getting popular the common perception was that it was health food at face value and no one really gave a thought that they might want to cut one of those burrito bricks in half.

  2. Kate says:

    I was really intrigued by Chipotle’s attitudes towards their animals in the food sourcing process. When I was in Spain, my senora provided insight into how ham within the Iberic region was produced. Like Chipotle, rather than confining their pigs inside fenced areas, Spanish farmers have their Black Iberian pigs live outside in the open range and are exposed to an abudance of aromic herbs (such as thyme and rosemary). Their wide-open woodland habitats are the source of a rich, well-balanced diet that is essential to the qualities of its meat. Mind you, there are many other processes afterwards (salting, resting, drying, and maturation) that help create the great flavors in Iberic ham, but this environment creates healthier animals, which is a very crucial step in this production. With so many corporations confining their livestock to small, fenced and concentrated areas, I admire Chipotle for taking great care of its animals.

  3. brookeparker16 says:

    Marc, I loved that you wrote about Chipotle because not only did I do a huge marketing project on it, it was also started in my home state Colorado. If this helps clarify things, Chipotle started off as a restaurant with the belief (but not yet motto) of food with integrity and McDonald’s only had temporary ownership when Chipotle was rapidly expanding. Their sole contribution to Chipotle was cash and they sold back their shares to Chipotle once Chipotle were more financially stable. And unlike McDonald’s, Chipotle does not franchise their restaurants to ensure that each location lives up to their standards. On the issue of Chipotle’s healthiness, I also asked the social media representative “Joe” why they pride themselves on being healthy when their food was so caloric. Joe responded saying that their was more to being healthy then just calories. I personally would rather know that the ingredients I’m consuming are natural then worrying about the calories. Unlike McDonald’s who recently confirmed they are no longer using pink slime chemicals in their burgers. Kudos Micky D’s. My final response to this post is that, yes, 50% of locally grown food seems pretty low but let’s be realistic where can Chipotle get locally grown produce in PA in the middle of winter?

    • mwh011 says:

      I like Joe’s response about each burrito’s calories. I know in another class we had talked about how eating right isn’t just cutting carbs or eating certain portions, but its eating the right types of food. In this regard I think Chipotle succeeds in their health kick because their food seems to be very health conscious. I’m just still not convinced any food in 1000 calorie portions can be considered health food. Perhaps if Chipotle had disclaimers alongside the nutritional information that the proper portion size should be half a burrito, it might be a little more effective. Overall though, I think Chipotle is doing the right things.

      That’s cool that you come from where Chipotle was started. Are people as crazy about Chipotle in Colorado as they seem to be everywhere else, or is it more of like a hipster mentality of “I was a fan of Chipotle before they were cool.” Are people there aware of their “Food With Integrity” mission? I love Chipotle and try to get it whenever I can, but I was only aware that they tried to source locally and didn’t know it was one of their main policies.

  4. […] Title is shared between Marc’s “Could I Have a Beef Burrito with a Side of Integrity?” and Zach’s […]

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