Healthy Fast Food: Chipotle Supports Sustainable Farming

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A fast-food chain promotes sustainable farming.

The Bad News

Most meat on fast-food and budget-restaurant menus is from animals raised under inhumane conditions. Pigs, cows and chickens live in overcrowded, enclosed facilities with little or no access to sunlight or fresh air. Diseases spread, requiring excessive antibiotic use. In addition, industrial livestock facilities often store manure in open-air lagoons that contaminate groundwater and air.

The Good News

Chipotle Mexican Grill, a restaurant chain with more than 500 locations, dishes up natural and organic ingredients in its burritos and tacos. Since 2002, Chipotle has served naturally raised pork in all its restaurants. Today, more than half of its chicken and a third of its beef is natural; 25 percent of its beans are organic.

“We’d rather buy meat from farmers who emphasize care over chemicals,” Chipotle president Monty Moran says. Animals raised by Niman Ranch and other likeminded Chipotle suppliers have access to pastures and eat only vegetarian feed. They’re also never treated with hormones or antibiotics.

Last year, Chipotle restaurants served 15 million pounds of naturally raised meats, leading all other restaurants. The company’s goal is to serve only naturally raised meats within two years-sooner if suppliers can match the demand.

More Good News

A few other restaurant chains offer healthier selections. In the Northeast, O’Naturals serves sandwiches, soups and salads made with natural, organic, local or wild ingredients. Colorado-based Good Times Burgers grills up all-natural beef , and Organic To Go serves fresh organic and natural food in California and Washington . In New England, McDonald’s brews organic, Fair Trade coffee. Starbucks sells organic, shade-grown coffee beans, but unless you visit when the “Coffee of the Week” is organic, you’ll probably have to make a special request for organic java.