Chipotle Mexican Grill had some conflicting news events released just days before the Chipotle Cultivate festival August 17th in Denver, CO. In vain with the companies beliefs, this festival was, "bringing together food, farmers, chefs, artisans, thought leaders, and musicians." This year was significant because Chipotle is celebrating its 20th year in business. Chipotle started in 1993 with the opening of the first store in Denver. Chipotle has had a mission since the beginning of serving food fast that uses "high-quality raw ingredients, classic cooking methods and distinctive interior design--features that are more frequently found in the world of fine dining." Because of this, Chipotle has prided itself on serving naturally raised meats and has arguably become leaders in the fast food industry for serving quality ingredients and sourcing food that is sustainably raised.
Chipotle states that whenever possible they use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones. The animals they use for pork, chicken and beef are naturally raised, and their website claims 100% of the beef in Chipotle is from ranches that meet or exceed naturally raised standards. Chipotle also signed an agreement in 2012 to join the Fair Food Program that will give farmers a fair wage.
For a fast food restaurant with over 900 locations, that is really an accomplishment. What other restaurant chain with 900 locations can say the same thing? Chipotle really went against the grain to make sure their standards were kept in place as they have grown much to the pleasure of their customers. That is, possibly until the August 13th release from Bloomberg that Chipotle may now decide to use beef with antibiotics. Chipotle claims they would only allow antibiotic use for cows who are sick and need antibiotics to stay well and still not allow antibiotic use just to promote growth or prevent illness. This change in protocol is probably also driven by money and meat demand. Beef production is plummeting to a 21 year low, driving up costs and making it hard to keep up with the demand for naturally raised beef burritos. This news seemed like such a contrast to Chipotle's firm stance on naturally raised ingredients; it created a stir with some people.
Chipotle came out the same day as the Bloomberg article in a Denver Post article clearing the air about this issue. Chipotle claims they use about 85% naturally raised beef, and in restaurants that are sourced conventionally raised beef there is a notice put up so customers know the beef is not naturally raised. Chipotle also claims they use 100% naturally raised chicken and pork. The question is if they are going to change their policy to allow naturally raised cows who are sick and treated with antibiotics to be allowed to stay in the beef herd for production. The article suggested many ranchers and others thought this would be an "ok" thing to do because they animals would be considered safe to eat.
Chipotle has a history about being completely open with their ingredients, and they even show on their website which ingredients are used locally, organic and even contain GMO's. Many restaurants, especially fast food, are still hesitant to release any such information. Whichever way Chipotle decides to go with the antibiotic beef issue, I hope they continue to be transparent with customers about their ingredients and what is in their food. If eating antibiotic beef is unsuitable, there are other options at Chipotle that are still free of antibiotics.