Chipotle commits to doubling local produce purchases

National restaurant chain has been stepping up its use of organic and locally grown ingredients since 2008.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been the subject of some not-to-favorable scrutiny in the past few months, what with being the focus of a major illegal immigration employment investigation. But this is one strategy that I can get behind: the restaurant chain intends to buy more than 10 million pounds of local produce to supply its restaurants in 2011, which is double its 2010 goal of 5 million pounds.

The produce will be sourced within 350 miles of the restaurants in which it is intended to be served. For example, you can get tomatoes locally in California, but not necessarily in other places. In California, you can add lemons, cilantro and avocado to the mix. Elsewhere, the restaurant chain takes advantage of seasonal supplies for things like bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, oregano, red onions and lettuce.

This actually sounds more like a regional strategy and a "local" strategy. Still, you can't fault Chipotle from trying to focus on produce that it has deemed as "better" than the alternative. Notes Chipotle Chairman, founder and co-CEO Steve Ells:

"While sourcing produce locally can be difficult -- particularly in regions with short growing seasons -- we continue to find like-minded suppliers to allow us to serve this better food. Not only is local produce fresher and better tasting, but it also helps support the environment and regional farming communities around the country."

Other sustainable sourcing strategies espoused by Chipotle:

  • An effort to use organically grown beans (approximately 40 percent this year)
  • A commitment to sourcing milk and sour cream only from cows that haven't been fed the synthetic recombinant bovine growth hormone
  • A focus on serving meat from animals raised "naturally" (although it doesn't reveal how much)

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