J500 Media and the Environment

Looking Into Chipotle by bendcohen

What happens when a company makes a concerted effort to lead the charge in going green AND encouraging local agribusiness?  Sounds great, but probably on a small scale, and this is how I imagine it usually is.  But what if a national company is the one in question?  Chipotle, the fast-food chain that is responsible for preventing starvation amongst most American college students, has proudly advertised their ties to small farms and food producers for years.  If you get a drink at one of their locations, the cup will have a story printed on it about one of their favorite affiliates.  You could hear about cattle farmers who don’t use antibiotics, or the sustainable practices of Tobasco, the giant that supplies them with hot sauce.

I hate for my food to be lazy and dishonest, so this is a relief.

How does this work?  I was curious how a major fast-food chain, even one as beloved as Chipotle, could make good on their claims to support local businesses throughout the country, and was pleasantly surprised at what I found.  The thing that struck me first was that half of the links on the chain’s main page are for things like the benefits of cycling,  information about the movie “Food, Inc.”, and how some of their new locations are being LEED certified.   This was nice to see, but I remained skeptical until locating the “Food” tab, and discovered guides to where they ship all of the foods at their restaurants from, and on the section about meats, a legend indicating how much of their pork, beef, and chicken is naturally raised (tying back to those proud cups mentioned earlier).

Assuming the contents of Chipotle’s website are honest (and I found nothing saying otherwise), they do seem to make a concerted effort at supporting small farms and businesses, and to spread green awareness.  This doesn’t make the burrito mavens perfect, of course.  The site Chipotlefan.com offers a calculator to give you the nutritional information of any combination of ingredients at the restaurant, and I was only mildly shocked to learn that my favorite item, the barbacoa burrito with black beans, served up 890 calories, including 90% of a daily amount of sodium.

So, the lesson learned is a simple one.  The fast-food burrito masters are apparently trying to make good on their claims of sustainability.  Sadly, making them a staple of one’s diet, as I and many of my friends have flirted with at some point or another, would probably not  be good for you.

~Ben C.


8 Comments so far
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I’m so glad there is no gloom or doom in this. I think it’s really easy to throw out names of major chains like Chipotle as the “Source of All Evil” just because they’re successful. Granted, I’m sure there’s a lot of room for improvement with them, but isn’t that the case with everyone? Of course, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be kept in check. (For the record, I don’t like Chipotle. I’m a Burrito King kind of girl.) What I’m most curious about is chains like Burger King and KFC, two companies that have been called out numerous times for their business practices. While I don’t eat at either of them, I wonder if they’re really as bad as everyone says.
-Kayla R.

Comment by KaylaReg

I’m not sure about KFC and the like beyond the protests I’ve heard over how the farms they buy from treat migrant workers. Chipotle interests me because they make such a concerted effort at transparency, along with their other claims. I was honestly ready to say something about how the website didn’t elaborate on any claims, or I found some incredibly damning story about them, but it just wasn’t there.

~Ben C.

Comment by Ben

This is great. I wasn’t aware Chipotle had made strides toward sustainability; I can remember that just a few years ago a few solidarity groups around town protesting against its non-fair trade tomatoes. It’s nice to see things change for the better.
—Jacob M.

Comment by jmuselmann

I believe that was Taco Bell being protested. Admittedly I still enjoy some of their gloriously unhealthy and probably not too sustainable products myself at times, but such is the life of a college student.

~Ben C.

Comment by Ben


I will admit that I have never eaten at Chipotle (I don’t ever eat fast food), but I don’t think they claim to be healthy… and sadly they still are probably healthier than most other fast food places. But the reason they advertise Food, Inc. on their website is that they were featured in it (on the bonus features). Check out this video: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7857921
-Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Referencing the health aspect came partially from a conversation I had while writing the initial post. A friend made some comment about how the tortillas served there are apparently fried, and therefore have more calories than a lot of people assume.

~Ben C.

Comment by Ben

I think Chipolte is really trying to make a conscious effort to support local food. It doesn’t seem like they are trying to use this concept simply for more business, (although I’m sure it helps) but maybe they want to inform customers that eating local is possible.

-Tess H.

Comment by tesshedrick

I kind of see it as a bit of both. It’s something generally positive AND it looks good for them.

~Ben C.

Comment by Ben

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