What is Naturally Raised Meat?

| 8/27/2007 12:00:00 AM

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The chain of burrito restaurants known as Chipotle advertise heavily that the meat in their menu items is natural. I asked Chris Arnold over at Chipotle, what that means to them.

Q. Can you identify Chipotle's specific sourcing standards. What does 'naturally raised' mean exactly?

A. Our greatest area of support for family farms comes in our purchase of naturally raised meat (meat coming from animals that are raised in a humane way, never given antibiotics or added hormones, and fed a pure vegetarian diet). We buy more meat that meets that definition than any restaurant in the world. It began in 2000 when we started purchasing pork from the farms of Niman Ranch. At the time, we operated about 50 restaurants, and Niman had about 50 family owned farms participating in their program. Today we have more than 640 restaurants and Niman has well over 500 family farms raising pigs the old fashioned way (on open pastures or in deeply bedded barns, without the use of antibiotics, hormones or drugs that behave like hormones, and on a pure vegetarian diet). Niman's program has done a lot to reshape the landscape of rural America, mostly through the Midwest, and Chipotle is proud to support that.

Beyond pork, we buy naturally raised chicken (more than 70 percent of all of our chicken meets this standard) and naturally raised beef (about half of all that we buy), much of which also comes from family owned operations through co-ops like Coleman and Bell & Evans.

Q. How can Chipotle be sure the sourcing farms are keeping up their end of the bargain?

A. Certifying farms and ensuring that our suppliers are adhering to our protocols is indeed a very important issue. To do this, we work with the suppliers themselves (who oversee their networks of family farms) to be sure their protocols are consistent with ours, and we audit our suppliers (not just those who provide our naturally raised meat, but suppliers across the board) using a combination of our own internal auditors as well as third-party auditors. Even with a standard such as organic, there's really no substitute to auditing to fully understand what is happening on the farms.

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