Chipotle Mexican Grill plans to purchase more than 20 million pounds of locally grown produce in its restaurants this year, up from its 2013 goal of 15 million pounds. Chipotle has steadily increased its locally sourced produce supply since beginning the program in 2008.
“We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” says Steve Ells, founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Chipotle. “That means pushing ourselves to find the best quality ingredients – ingredients that have traditionally been available only in high-end restaurants and specialty food markets – and making them available in a way that is accessible to really mainstream customers.”
Chipotle will work with more than 45 local farms around the country to provide bell peppers, cilantro, red onions, jalapeno peppers, oregano, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes for its restaurants when seasonally available. In select cities, the company will also source avocados and lemons from local growers. Chipotle’s use of locally grown produce is rooted in its belief that produce from local growers arrives at its restaurants closer to harvest, resulting in fresher, more delicious food. Supporting local farms also creates and sustains opportunities for small- and mid-sized farms in rural communities around the country.
Chipotle has pioneered the use of locally grown produce among national restaurant companies, and consumers are taking notice. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast, today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from. Additionally, a 2014 National Grocery Association panel revealed that 87 percent of consumers regard the availability of locally grown produce and other local packaged foods as very/somewhat important, up from 76 percent in 2009. All of Chipotle’s locally grown produce comes from within 350 miles of the restaurants where it will be served.
Beyond its commitment to serving locally grown produce, Chipotle also serves more Responsibly Raised meat (from animals that are raised humanely and never given antibiotics or added hormones) than any other restaurant company in the United States; more than 135 million pounds in 2013. The dairy (cheese and sour cream) served at Chipotle is made with milk from cows that are never given the synthetic hormone rBGH, and more than 46 million pounds of the dairy products Chipotle serves is made with milk from pasture-based cows. Additionally, the company uses 2 acres of organic cilantro each day and plans to source more than 7 million pounds of organic black beans and 1.2 million pounds of organic wheat this year.