Chipotle Mexican Grill, the national chain of burrito restaurants, announced today that all of the beef it uses in its barbacoa, a spicy shredded beef, is now naturally raised, bringing its total of naturally raised beef to nearly 23 million pounds, including both steak and barbacoa. The move solidifies Chipotle as the largest restaurant seller of naturally raised meat and underscores its commitment to serving “Food with Integrity.”

In all, Chipotle expects to serve more than 75 million pounds of naturally raised meat in 2010, including all of its pork, more than 80 percent of its chicken, and 85 percent of its beef. All of its naturally raised meat comes from animals that are raised in a humane way, never given antibiotics or added hormones, and fed a pure vegetarian diet.

“When we started serving pork from naturally raised pigs more than a decade ago, we did it because we thought it was a better way to raise animals and it produced better tasting food,” says Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “That gave rise to our commitment to find better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use. We call this commitment ‘Food with Integrity’ and it is one of the ways we are changing the way people think about and eat fast food.”

Beyond serving naturally raised meat, Chipotle is also the only national restaurant company with significant commitments to serving local and organically grown produce, and was the first national restaurant company to serve dairy products (cheese and sour cream) made with milk from cows that are not treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone).

In addition to influencing the food system and creating new opportunities for farmers and suppliers, Ells says “Food with Integrity” is helping to build awareness and increase demand for sustainably raised foods among customers.

“We are teaching our customers about the tastes and benefits of eating fresh, naturally raised foods, and the more they come to appreciate that, the more they are going to want them from others,” Ells says. “It is certainly challenging to find better ingredients from more sustainable sources, but we believe it’s the right thing to do and will continue to lead the industry in serving food made with these better ingredients.”

Chipotle had been serving naturally raised chicken in all of its restaurants but can no longer get enough chicken to meet its growing demand. The company hopes to be back to 100 percent naturally raised chicken by the end of the year.

Menu Innovations, News, Chipotle