Steve Ells opened his first Chipotle in 1993. It was a success from the start, growing into a nationwide restaurant chain that today has 1,900 locations, 45,000 employees and generates annual revenue of well over $4 billion. It was innovative, creating what has become known as ‘fast casual’ dining, and with its commitment to organic food ingredients. Steve’s Chipotle website states, “We care deeply about where our ingredients come from. While industrial farming practices have evolved to maximize profits and production, we make an extra effort to partner with farmers, ranchers, and other suppliers whose practices emphasize quality and responsibility.”
Regarding the animals Chipotle sources for its food, “We think that animals raised outdoors or in deeply-bedded pens are happier and healthier than those raised in confinement. With our suppliers, we take a firm stand on two things.” First, that pasture-raised animals must be provided the living space to be animals. Second, that farmers and ranchers must raise their animals without using antibiotics or synthetic hormones.
Moreover, regarding the produce Chipotle purchases, its mandate is to source locally grown wherever possible and to buy from farms “that plant a variety of crops and rotate the fields where they’re planted keep(ing) the soil nutrient-rich and the land healthier year after year.”
This mandate enables hundreds of family owned sustainable small farms to survive and to thrive, and pumps millions of dollars back into rural economies. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement believes that this movement, the return of small farms, of a modern day Grange, of food-to-table, will create 500,000+ new farming jobs over the next decade, the rebirth of rural towns, and will constitute one of the essential American social movements in our country’s evolution into a more compassionate nation.
What we most want to commend Steve Ells and Chipotle on, is their strength of character, their adherence to their values. Given the factory-farmed dominance of the pork industry, when pork suppliers violated Chipotle’s animal care standards, it proved impossible to source humanely raised pork. Rather than compromise, Chipotle removed pork from its menus – and for a prolonged period of time.
Steve Ells risked that his customers who would head down the street to order their carnitas at Taco Bell or numerous other food chains where it was always on the menu – chains operating without concern at their executive level regarding the humane treatment of the animals they source for food. But Chipotle customers tend to be loyal. And aware, informed and issue-oriented. And they remained Chipotle customers.
Now some factory farms are getting the message. It is no coincidence that DuBreton, North America’s largest pork producer has agreed to raise 300,000 more crate-free pigs. Nor, most probably, is it a sudden surge of compassion on their part either. They are changing to supply customers’ demand for healthier, humanely raised pork - demand rising hand-in-hand with a company like Chipotle who gets it, whose mandate, whose DNA insists on it.
This is not just a reflection of the compassion and the caring of Steve Ells. This is also a demonstration of his courage.Read More