Eat Local

Published on June 25th, 2009 | by Timothy B. Hurst


Chipotle Lures Locavores, Sources Produce Locally

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Chipotle Mexican Grill is once again breaking from the fast-food model.

The Denver-based chain known for its clean flavors and burly burritos is pledging to use a set amount of local produce at each of its more than 730 restaurants around the country — when produce is in season.

This summer, Chipotle is purchasing twenty-five percent of at least one produce item for each of its stores from small and midsize farms situated within 200 miles of the store.

“Ultimately, this is changing the way the world thinks about and eats fast food,” said chief executive Steve Ells, who opened the first Chipotle Mexican Grill 1993.

Finding the right suppliers has been a challenge, however. After conducting a supply-chain test, Chipotle discovered it would have to use midsize farms of about 500 to 600 acres to ensure a reliable supply. In the test, they found that tiny growers were less able to survive swings in weather or couldn’t always deliver a product.

Chipotle purchasing director Anne Daniels said Chipotle has 30 to 50 farms on its list so far, including third-generation farmer Kirk Holthouse of Holthouse Farms in Willard, Ohio. His family’s 500-acre farm will provide jalapeño peppers, romaine lettuce and green bell peppers to Chipotle in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.

“In the summertime, quite often, we don’t get some of that business because a lot of chain restaurants will be buying out of California” from farms 10 to 20 times larger, Holthouse said.

Because of their difficulty to source all produce within the locavore frame, certain staples in Chipotle’s burritos and tacos, like organic beans, avocados and herbs grown only on a large scale in certain climates won’t be part of the new program.

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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

6 Responses to Chipotle Lures Locavores, Sources Produce Locally

  1. Cate says:

    I don’t eat takeout food for waste purposes, but I’d eat here. Locally, the Chipotle sources food from the famed Polyface Farms (mentioned in Michael Pollan’s writing and a cameo in Food, Inc. I believe).
    A step in the right direction!

  2. Matthew says:

    I love this idea, and I am looking forward to eating at Chipolte when they start this in my area. I know the quality of the food will be better when they do it this way!

    Let’s rock this green stuff!

  3. Kate says:

    Wow, this is really great to know. I haven’t been to Chipotle in forever… maybe this is a good excuse to check it out. :)

  4. Danielle says:

    Wow, that is great news! I love Chipotle for their delicious, fresh organic food at a great price. To know now that they are supporting local farming makes me proud to support my local Chipotle.

  5. katherine says:

    Actually, this year Chipotle is sourcing up to 35% of at least one produce item for every Chipotle restaurant nationwide from local family farmers throughout the growing season. So, that might mean that in one region, they will get romaine lettuce and cilantro early in the season and green peppers, onions through the summer. That is up from 25% last year. More local farmers continue to be added to the rolls;but, as you can imagine, it is a process to get to 100%. Plus 30 percent of the beans are organic and they use rGBH-free milk to make all of their cheeses and sour cream…much of the milk is pasture raised as well. Also, Cate, you are right, Joel Salatin supplies the pork to the Charlottesville, VA Chipotle and also will provide pork to the new Chipotle in Harrisonburg, VA.
    You can see an interview on Nightline with Steve and Joel.
    It is all very cool.

    And, it builds and operates “green”, too.

    Full disclosure, Chipotle has been my client for 10 years…I handle its pr on the East coast. And, as a serious food person who cares deeply about sustainable farming and farmers, I can tell you that it has been wonderful to work with at every step of the way.

  6. Pingback: The Winter Harvest Handbook – Eat Drink Better

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