Chipotle Mexican Grill said it plans to serve more than 10 million pounds of locally grown produce for the second year in a row, up from 5 million pounds just two years ago. Chipotle has steadily increased its locally sourced produce supply since beginning the program in 2008, with the commitment to serve great tasting vegetables that are grown on farms within 350 miles of the restaurants where they will be served.
“Supporting local farms continues to be important to us,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “Food that is locally grown is fresher and better tasting, and supports local farm communities around the country. Making local food accessible is an important part of our commitment to providing better food, from more sustainable sources. It is a key element in our effort to change the way people think about and eat fast food.”
According to a recent online survey of 2,000 adults by market research firm Mintel, more than half (52%) of U.S. consumers say it’s more important to buy local produce than organic options. Chipotle is a leader when it comes to supporting local farms and more sustainable agriculture.
Chipotle works with local, family-owned farms to provide bell peppers, red onions, jalapenos, oregano, and romaine lettuce for its restaurants. Chipotle restaurants in Florida and California also source locally grown tomatoes, as well as lemons and avocados in California. These ingredients are used to make Chipotle’s delicious salsas, salads, fajitas, and other offerings. Chipotle remains the only national restaurant company with a significant commitment to using locally grown produce.
In 2011, Chipotle’s local produce haul included 3.6 million pounds of bell peppers, more than 400,000 pounds of jalapenos, 2 million pounds of red onions, 4.7 million pounds of romaine lettuce, and more than a combined 300,000 pounds of cilantro and oregano.
Beyond this commitment, Chipotle continues to serve significant quantities of organically grown beans and cilantro. It is also working with Food Alliance certified growers to source beans that use conservation tillage methods, which reduce soil erosion. The company sources 100 percent of its meat from animals that are naturally raised (the animals are never given antibiotics or added hormones), and increasing amounts of milk from pasture-raised dairy cattle for its cheese and sour cream.
“Finding local suppliers to meet our needs is challenging, but very much worth the effort,” said Ells. “We think it’s important to serve great tasting food, made with ingredients from more sustainable sources in a way that is accessible to everyone, and locally grown produce is a big part of that.”