Chipotle Restaurant Supports Florida Tomato Pickers

I've long been a fan of meeting people where they are. It's a strategy that offers a nice complement to "hitting them over the head," and is often perceived as more agreeable than "bowling them over with the hard truth." I'm not saying those techniques don't have a place - it's hard to care about real food (or anything!) and not get angry about it once in a while. Still, one must acknowledge that fast food isn't going away anytime soon, and - as a result - those who produce it in a mindful way can do the world some good. Which brings me to Chipotle. Here's a quote from a recent article in entitled "Chipotle Opts for Higher Food Costs":

More than 30,000 tomato workers labor in Florida during the six- to seven-month harvesting season, and it seems like they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by Chipotle’s agreement to pay them an extra penny a pound. Yet that amount represents a 64 percent pay increase for the workers. Chipotle will be sourcing its tomatoes exclusively from East Coast Farms, one of Florida’s largest tomato growers.

That's right, friends. Unlike its competitors, Chipotle Restaurants will pay tomato workers an additional penny for each pound of tomatoes they pick. A far cry from fair trade, maybe, but a step in the right direction, nonetheless. I'd encourage you to read the entire article, which places this move in the context of other business decisions and competitors.

If you've been following Chipotle, you know that they're a different sort of fast food chain, albeit one formerly owned in large part by McDonald's. Chipotle is committed to a variety of sustainable practices, and buys its meat from regional producers. It's difficult (or impossible) to imagine another fast food chain whose website would go to great pains to explain its views on pork, for example. This is straight from the Chipotle site:

Most pigs do not spend their lives on open pastures, but live in Concentrated Animal Feed Operations, or CAFOs. The conditions in a CAFO are bad, even horrendous. In many ways, they look more like factories than farms. Pigs are crowded so closely with other pigs that they must be given antibiotics from a young age to avoid the spread of infection. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, American pork producers use 10 million pounds of antibiotics per year to keep their confinement raised pigs from getting sick. That’s more than an estimated three times the amount used to treat all human illnesses.

Pigs raised in these "factory farm" conditions, about 95 percent of all of the pigs raised in this country, often don't even have room to turn around in their crates, let alone experience the outdoors.  It's stressful and inhumane for them, and it's surely not healthy for us either.

We think there's a better way to do things.

It's called old-fashioned animal husbandry, which means farmers rely on care, not chemicals, to tend their animals and their land. Pigs raised in this way are not given antibiotics, and their feed does not contain animal by-products. They are free to roam the pasture, to root in deeply bedded barns, and to socialize with other pigs.

We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we've ever tasted. We call pork produced according to these standards naturally raised, and sourcing it for our restaurants is part of a larger mission we've dubbed Food With Integrity, an ongoing quest to source the highest quality food from farmers who care deeply about the welfare of their animals, their land, and their communities.

Since 2001, all of the pork served in our restaurants has been from pigs raised in this humane, ecologically sustainable way. In addition to all of our pork and all of our chicken in the US, more than 50 percent of our beef is naturally raised. And we'll continue until all of our meats in all of our restaurants meet this standard.

Once again, naturally raised pork at Chipotle means:

  • No antibiotics, ever.
  • Letting pigs exhibit their natural behaviors in open pasture or deeply-bedded pens.
  • Vegetarian feed with no animal by-products.

There you have it. Chipotle favors "old-fashioned animal husbandry," thinks CAFOs are bad, and has a larger mission they call "Food With Integrity." Is it okay for me to admit that I kind of like how their food tastes, too? Unfortunately, I can't do anything about the carbs.

This post was proudly submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.


This is great news! I Chipotle's carnitas!

Oops I guess my 'heart' got eating by this site. I meant to say I heart Chipotle carnita's!

I've always loved Chipotle and I've actually heard this about their pork before. Perhaps it's not all organic, local food but it's certainly a far cry from McDonalds or Wendy's. As far as the carbs, go for a burrito bowl, hold the rice :-)

I love Chipotle's and so do my kids. It's fast food you can eat without a guilty conscience. The vegetarian burrito bowl is my and my kids' favorite, even though we're not vegetarian. If you are, get the black beans rather than the pinto beans, which are cooked with pieces of pork. Thanks, Lee, for a good post.

I remember I was nearly heart-broken when I learned that Chipotle had been sourcing from farms whose practices amounted to little more than slave labor, and I'm thrilled that they've come around, listened to consumers and made what appears to be the right choice. Good for them!

Just a a bit of full disclosure...The organization I work for has received 2 small grants from Chipotle in the past, but that being said I'm still really impressed with the company wide commitment to doing good. They have been cycling in hybrid cars to their fleet for example. Now I don't mean to imply they are walking on water, but whenever a new Chipotle opens a new farmer must be brought along to meet the Niman Ranch standards. That is a big deal - these are true family sustainable farms. check them out... (hey ben and mike - we still have not had that cup of coffee!)

I think it's amazing that Chipotle is taking the lead in sourcing their ingredients with animal *and* human welfare in mind.

But I do have to point out that everything at Chipotle isn't exactly "fast food you can eat without a guilty conscience." The Center for Science in the Public Interest has reported that some menu items at Chipotle top 1,000 calories, with 3/4 of a days' worth of fat (14 grams).

CSPI also points out that Chipotle has a wealth of healthful food offerings. They're not just bashing it.

You can see the article here:

Such great, thougthful comments, thank you all so very much for weighing in. Dana, I get your point completely, and I was one who avoided Chipotle almost entirely during the years when McDonald's was an investor. The issue of what to order is a good one to take on, and I'm hoping we can do that soon.

Brett, thanks for full disclosure and for the link to Niman Ranch.

Shari, thanks for the note about the beans and vegetarian options.

Emily, thanks for the lower carb recommendation.

Part of my excitemenrt about Chipotle is that they really make an effort to be a local company, to participate in their regions, and to be good stewards of the earth. What other major national "fast food" companies can you think of that are trying to do these things on a grand scale?

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