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Chipotle is Changing the Fast Food World

If Whole Foods and Fast Food fell in love and made a baby, Chipotle would be it’s name.

I never thought I would sing the praises of a fast food joint. But Chipotle’s policies spun my head around. I can’t help but feel happy it is a big player in the food scene. We need the change it offers in fast food.

Who knew that it’s possible for a fast food restaurant to serve food that respects the environment; is humane and ethical to its employees; sources humanely raised animals; and cares for the health of its consumers. Chipotle Mexican Grill is leading the way in important changes to the food culture movement in the United States. This comes not a moment too soon.

Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” philosophy has won accolades among conscious foodies and animal advocacy groups. In fact, Chipotle has won a few awards because of their humane efforts, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Peta2 Libby Award for Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Chain in both 2011 and 2012. It is one of the event sponsors for the 2014 International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), which I’m attending again this year in Seattle.

How Chipotle is leading the way for other restaurants and shaping a better food culture:

Care for our environment:

By offering organic and sustainably-produced produce, Chipotle estimates it has reduced pesticide spraying by at least 140,000 pounds since 2005. That’s significant. Their napkins are made of 100% recycled materials, helping save millions of gallons of water.

Serve organic ingredients:

This includes avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, black beans, pinto beans, brown rice. Since hot peppers are some of the produce carrying the most pesticides, this is a significant feature. Many farmers use sustainable, non-spray farming practices and healthy crop rotation, but don’t have the expensive “Organic” certification. Chipotle goes beyond the label and reviews the practices of farmers on case-by-case basis.

Support family farms and local produce:

Chipotle strives  to serve at least 50% of one or more produce items from local farms (within 350 miles of their restaurant) when they are seasonally available, such as lettuce, onions and peppers.

Dignity for animals:

Because it sources only humanely-raised meat sources, this means that Chipotle serves animals that weren’t tortured or abused in confined animal feeding operations (aka CAFOs). This also helps avoid industrial ranches and factory farms that produce tons of waste and deplete the soil.

Pasture-raised dairy:

There is an enormous difference in pastured animals vs grain-fed. The health benefits of pastured animals and pastured dairy are many. Here is the short list: it is anti-inflammatory; provides more conjugated linoleic acid; contains fewer pesticides and little to no genetically modified organisms (GMO) from the animal feed; offers significantly more antioxidants.

“If Whole Foods and Fast Food fell in love and made a baby, Chipotle would be it’s name. @FrancesLArnold

GMO sensitive:

Since genetically modified organisms have finally received public scrutiny, Chipotle has responded sensitively to public demands. They’ve replaced GMO-based soybean oil with sunflower oil. They work with ranchers and farmers who do not use GMO in their animal and dairy feed as often as possible, and are striving to improve this.

Don’t exploit people:

Unlike many fast food restaurants now facing worker strikes because of poor wages and poor treatment, Chipotle treats its employees differently. Wherever they source their food (small or large farms), they “have several policies . . . to  ensure that the products [used] at Chipotle are grown, made, and shipped without exploiting people.” One of these includes paying fair wages for tomatoes. tomatoes

While Chipotle is light years ahead of other fast food restaurants, they admittedly still have other areas to improve. Here is where Chipotle I believe Chipotle should focus:

Tortillas: Their flour tortillas contain hydrogenated oil and GMO oils. Chipotle is working on removing these hydrogenated oils and GMO ingredients completely. That’s good, because hydrogenated oil has been outed as a public health villain, especially because of it’s inflammatory properties.

Additives and preservatives: Chipotle is working on eliminating all artificial preservatives. Their corn tortilla contains Guar Gum (avoid this if you have gut-health issues) and Cellulose Gum, Fumaric Acid, Sorbic Acid, Calcium Proprionate, Dextrose, Calcium Sulfate, and Enzymes.

Special Diets Options:

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in food allergies, Celiac disease, and food sensitivities, Chipotle wins my praise for also having a special diets selection. There is still something to eat for individuals facing allergies or sensitivities to wheat, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, dairy, sesame, eggs, or tree nuts. However, if you have a true wheat allergy or Celiac disease, take notice that Chipotle does not segregate wheat in its kitchen, and cross-contamination is always possible. For many people, cross-contamination can spell a variety of symptoms, such as joint pain, brain fog, fatigue, depression, irritability, migraines, digestive problems, thyroid hormone imbalances, and more. So take care when eating out.

Founder and co-CEO Steve Ells said,

 “Food with Integrity” is our commitment to always look closer, dig deeper, and work harder to ensure that our actions are making things better, not worse. It’s our promise to run our business in a way that doesn’t exploit animals, people or the environment. It is the philosophy that guides every decision we make at Chipotle.”

Thank you for leading the change in fast food, Chipotle. The world needs your leadership.

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  • Catherine

    I am not a fast food lover by any stretch but I love Chipotle. When I need a really hearty lunch my favorite is the rice bowl. I know I am getting my energy from healthy and that I won’t sugar crash an hour later. So glad you confirmed what I had hoped! I laughed when you mentioned Whole Foods as the mama or papa. Our Chipotle is in the same complex as Whole Foods.

    • Frances Arnold

      Hey Catherine, I hear ya. I am also not a fast-food lover, but Chipotle earned my respect. It’s great to hear you like Chipotle too. =-)

  • laura

    Fast food that is GOOD for you?!?! Who’d a thunk but of course it has to happen….do you know where these are…have not heard of them in the northeast?!

  • Kelly

    Thank goodness!! Because i love me some Chipotle! So wish there was one closer… I have to travel about 20 minutes away…oooor that’s a good thing!

  • Lilia Lee

    This is good information to know. There aren’t any of these near where I live, unfortunately. But, if there were, I would most certainly eat there. Thanks for spreading the word.

    • Frances Arnold

      Lilia, when you travel, you’ll probably run into a Chipotle. When you do, run inside! =)

  • Mary @ Fit and Fed

    Chipotle is definitely one of the best choices for fast food! Have you seen their anti-factory farm ad? It’s quite powerful.

    • Frances Arnold

      Hey Mary, I have not seen that ad but will definitely look for it! Thanks for letting me know. I don’t watch TV, so I miss out on stuff like that. =0)

  • Paula Thomas

    Chipotle is the only fast food I’ll eat. Love them!

  • Kate F.

    Awesome points. I love chipotle.

    I wonder if you might also approve of Boloco, our local burrito fast food restaurant. Founded by a Dartmouth MBA alum, it is a very special place. 🙂

    Here is one article on their employee benefits:

    They source locally as much as they can, with the exception of a few things, such as their beef. The CEO has done a lot of public work to inform others on the path for this decision, here some people might enjoy reading this:

    And this:

    Thanks for this article. It’s so cool to think about this kind of stuff!

    • Frances Arnold

      Mmmm, yum. Lucky you to have a great local burrito place with great values! Let’s hope this catches on quickly. We need to support great companies for this to happen.

  • Tamsyn Pady

    Hi Frances! Your Chipotle information came at an excellent time for me… well just after actually! Last night I fed my daughter’s Varsity Volleyball team with Chipotle burritos – 20 of them! I think I am now their favorite parent because the girls and coaches LOVED them – many hadn’t had Chipotle before and I think I’ve helped put the restaurant on the map! Sadly there were none left for me to try (I haven’t actually eaten there – but I will!)
    Hope all is well with you.

    • Frances Arnold

      20 burritos! I can see why you’re a favorite now. You’ll have to let me know when you have one yourself. Go, Mom!

  • Lorraine

    I wish they could lower the sodium content. One Chipotle burrito will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood 2,000 milligrams of sodium, depending on the options you choose. Yikes!

    • Frances Arnold

      I understand what you’re saying, Lorraine. It’s so hard to make it perfect, isnt’ it? I believe that a Chipotle’s burrito can find it’s place in a well-balanced diet. For those reading this, well-balanced includes eating lots of veggies! Got it?! =-) Thanks for your comment.

    • Frances Arnold

      Not perfect, but better than what most restaurant chains can claim about sodium!

  • Anonymous

    hi i am researching about chipotle for my project and i am so happy to know that they are using all natural ingredients and free abused animals. btw I LOVE THEIR FOOD!

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