Chipotle makes no small matter of the fact that it’s always looking for ways to get greener (and encourage others to do the same). This week the chain has taken another step forward in its endeavor: on Monday it was announced that, as of this month, 100 percent of sour cream served at Chipotle will be produced with milk from pasture-raised cattle with no added hormones and vegetarian diets.
It’s not a marginal shift – according to Farm Sanctuary, three out of four dairy cows in the U.S. are never given the opportunity to graze in pasture, and many who get outdoor time spend it on dry lots that don’t offer much comfort or allowance for cows to alleviate stress and express their natural tendencies. It’s the kind of thing that politicians are working to fix with legislation, but smart businesses are working to stay ahead of the curve. The new protocol that Chipotle is working under attests to ensure that its suppliers’ dairy cattle must have regular access to actual sustainably-managed pasture, as well as shelter from the elements.
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"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."
While animal welfare would be reason enough for this to be a good idea, it’s not even all about the cows – Chipotle also points to a USDA study which asserts that cows with regular pasture access emit fewer greenhouse gasses and contribute less to phosphorus run-off. This in turn means a healthier environment all around. Everybody wins.
In addition to the sour cream, Chipotle also announced that 65 percent of its cheese is coming from pasture-raised cattle as well. That’s not exactly 100 percent, but given the strides that the chain has already made over the years, it seems reasonable to think that number will also rise with time.
In the meantime, readers in the Chicago or Denver areas might be interested in checking out Chipotle’s second annual “Cultivate” food and music festivals in September and October respectively. Chefs like Richard Blais and Amanda Freitag will be there, sustainability will be discussed, and they might even tell you about any new initiatives they have up their sleeves next.