21 May 2010

Chipotle Mexican Grill expands locally grown produce program

Recently national restaurant chain Chipotle announced plans to expand its two year old locally grown produce program. The Denver-based company is working with approximately 50 local, family owned farms to provide romaine lettuce, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, red onions, tomatoes and oregano to its nearly 1,000 locations nationwide.

According to Chipotle, approximately 70-percent of the locally grown produce originates within 150 miles of its distribution centers with about one-third coming from within 50 miles.

"Our commitment to serving produce from local farms and other sustainable sources is one of the ways we are changing the way people think about and eat fast food," said Steve Ells, founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Chipotle. "Fresh produce from local farms not only has environmental benefits and supports farming communities around the country, it also tastes better. Great tasting food made with local, more sustainably raised ingredients should be available to everyone."

Chipotle committed to serving 25% of at least one produce item in each of its markets—when seasonally available—during the initial year of its locally grown program in 2008. The program grew to 35% in 2009 with a planned expansion to 50% this year or an equivalent of 5 million pounds of locally grown produce utilized in its restaurants.

"Serving food made with locally grown produce and other sustainably raised ingredients is challenging," said Ells. "But we have committed to pushing ourselves to find the best sources we can for every ingredient we use and hope that others will follow our lead. The more consumers understand the benefits of eating food from more sustainable sources, the more they're going to want it from everyone."

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