If you haven't seen this short film from Chipotle, definitely take a minute to watch it. It's a big shot by the TexMex restaurant chain at Big Ag, but it also raises questions about the company's sourcing efforts. The video is a big reinforcement of Chipotle's corporate line concerning their focus on sustainably sourced foods, but is there anything behind it?

Like I do with any company that spends money to say how awesome they are, I initially found Chipotle's green/sustainable/natural food claims suspect. So, I started digging. Turns out, other than not sourcing their tomatoes exactly like some people apparently want them to, everything else on the web seemingly suggests that Chipotle is doing what they say they're doing. But you have to pay attention to the wording.

Keep in mind that Chipotle is securely within the fast casual dining category. Price is, and always will be, a concern. By touting that its meat is "naturally raised", a phrase that has no definition by the FDA, they mean that it's antibiotic- and hormone-free. They understand that "naturally raised" is happily interpreted, especially after viewing their commercials and the photos on their website, to mean something more like free range or pasture-raised.

Elsewhere in their promotional material, they promote that they have guidelines for sourcing locally, but then immediately caution that "it's not possible or practical for [them] to source all of [their] ingredients locally. They then promise to serve at least 50% local produce. More flexible language and caveats.

Still, not to crucify the company, it's worth noting how well they manage their supply base. Suppliers have to pass a rack of tests before selling to Chipotle. Take a look at the requirements here. Even their critics, while dismissing their image, are quick to mention how thorough the company is in keeping their supply chain tightly managed.

So, after all this digging, it's clear that Chipotle is doing a better job at not putting chemicals into the air, the land, the water, or its customers than Big Ag is, but you still can't believe the hype of their commercials. Well, not all of the hype, anyway.

Have you seen what's in a McNugget??
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Nicholas Hamner

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