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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