Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) announced that it has reached an important milestone in its efforts to serve sour cream and cheese made with milk from pasture-raised dairy cows. Beginning this month, 100% of the sour cream served in its restaurants is produced with dairy from pasture-raised cattle. Under this protocol, cows have daily access to outdoor pastures, are never given added hormones, and are fed an all vegetarian, plant-based diet.
“We are constantly looking at every ingredient we use to make our food and how we can get them from better, more sustainable sources,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “For too long, food made with more sustainably raised ingredients has been out of reach to many consumers, but we are changing that. It’s one of the ways we are changing the way people think about and eat fast food. Food made with these great ingredients should be available and affordable to everyone.”
Cows are often portrayed on food packaging, advertising, and in popular culture as living on wide-open prairies with access to plenty of fresh grass and water, but very few dairy cows actually enjoy this kind of existence. According to Farm Sanctuary, a leading farm animal protection organization, three out of four dairy cows in the United States never graze in pasture, and a significant amount of dairy cows are denied routine access to the outdoors.
Chipotle has long believed that animals should live in a way that allows them to display their natural tendencies. In addition to its commitment to serving dairy from pasture-raised cattle, Chipotle also serves all naturally raised meat – from animals that are raised in a humane way and never given antibiotics or added hormones – in all of its restaurants.
Chipotle’s pasture-raised dairy protocol states that dairy cattle must have regular access to pasture and that all natural resources, including plants, soil and water, must be sustainably managed. The animals must also have access to shelter, housing or windbreaks that provide adequate protection from the elements.
In addition to its sour cream, 65% of the cheese served at Chipotle restaurants is produced with dairy from pasture-raised cows. The dairy cattle used in the production of cheese and sour cream are never administered antibiotics or added hormones, including rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone).
Not only does Chipotle believe dairy products from pasture-raised cows taste better, the company also believes pasture-raised dairy is better for the environment. According to a study conducted by the USDA, cows raised with regular access to the outdoors emitted fewer greenhouse gases and contributed less to phosphorous runoff, which is responsible for soil erosion and depletion of natural resources.
In addition to serving dairy from pasture-raised cows and naturally raised meat, Chipotle remains the only national restaurant chain with a significant commitment to local and organically grown produce.
Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO, started Chipotle with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, Chipotle continues to offer a focused menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. Through our vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle is seeking better food from using ingredients that are not only fresh, but that—where possible—are sustainably grown and naturally raised with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food. A similarly focused people culture, with an emphasis on identifying and empowering top performing employees, enables us to develop future leaders from within. Chipotle opened with a single restaurant in 1993 and currently operates more than 1,250 restaurants. For more information, visit Chipotle.com.