One of the most popular chains for the health and environmentally conscious of us is Chipotle Mexican Grille. Their overstuffed burritos are to die for. What’s more, they say that they use locally sourced vegetables, organic cilantro and meat that is antibiotic free. The company boasts 1,500 locations across the country and a recent TV commercial put them on the map as the sustainability chain of the 21st century. In it, an adorable scarecrow comes to understand the horrors of factory farms, and turns away from them. Instead, he creates his own which uses sustainable practices. The happy ending fills one with delight. Clearly, Chipotle is trying to separate itself from the rest of the fast food companies out there, and appeal to a more health-conscious, eco-friendly consumer. But is Chipotle really as good as they say they are? For those who are concerned about GMOs, Chipotle does use such ingredients. According to their website they have GMO corn products and soybean oil. Note that in the New York Metropolitan area they don’t use soybean oil. However, the company is planning to “eliminate GMOs from Chipotle’s ingredients”. Most of the other items do include some form of GMO. So the company is making strides but isn’t there yet. If you eat meat, beware, as the feed used may also be GMO.
The next issue is how the animals are treated. By and large the pigs are fed a vegetarian diet and given more space than at your average hog farm. The chickens and cows are fed better and fare better, too. But they aren’t all grass fed. Nor are the animals free-range. Still, it is better than from where most chains source their animals. As for locally sourced vegetables, the company looks for farms within 350 miles of where the food is being served. Still, they can’t get all of these vegetables year round. The local produce is mixed with what is flown in. Chipotle tries to use organic cilantro when it can. It labels things carefully so the customer will know. Look for “natural” over “organic” and you will get the picture. As for antibiotic-free meat, it does use this when there are no shortages. If an animal is sick and given antibiotics, it will consider using it in its supply line. Overall, Chipotle tries to stick to its advertising. It just seems like the infrastructure for such an operation isn’t there. But the company is forthright and making progress. Other than cooking at home, Chipotle is probably one of your safest bets as far as any chain restaurant goes.