Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chipotle, Food WITH OUT Integrity

Please see updated link from May 2013 at the bottom of this post! 

As I sit to write this post,  I am conflicted by what I need to say. While I could instantly take the straight forward fact stance and simply publish the response I received from Chipotle in regards to my inquiry, I feel like it's just not that easy.

In my family food matters. Nourishing my daughter's growing bodies in a way that is wholesome and void of additives, chemicals, preservatives, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, and other laboratory created substances is a tough job. But a job I embrace. I'm the first line of defense and I wholeheartedly understand that every dollar I spend in the market or at a restaurant drives what items that market will in turn choose to sell me. Consumers drive supply, it's a simple proven fact. Convincing everyone of this fact is a different story, but again I often take on the conversation with friends and acquaintances convincing them their dollar has power. I recently heard 80% of all processed food in the grocery store contains genetically modified foods. Here's a breakdown of crops that are genetically modified, 94% soybeans, 73% cotton (Bt & HT), 73% corn (Bt & HT). Bt means every cell of the plant is spliced to produce insecticide and it is categorized as an insecticide by the USDA (not as a vegetable). 

Unfortunately in the United States our politicians have simply become Corporate Whores (back door deals help corporations buy the laws that put their business interests before citizens). The USDA and FDA are being run by men and women that have spent a majority of their careers working closely with or for companies such as Cargill, Monsanto, or DOW Chemical. Corporations that are in the business of engineering chemicals side by side with engineering the seeds that produce crops that become our food. NOT food that was grown on a family farm from seeds that were passed down for generations. While in most developed countries the government protects the citizens from genetically modified foods, here in the United States we've allowed our children to become the guinea pig generation. We don't know the deep ramifications that GMO's reek on our health, partially because when a seed is genetically modified it is patented and that makes it intellectual property of the company that created it; essentially making it illegal for independent tests to be done on the seeds. To top it off, we don't know what we are eating because the government has been dragging it's feet on labeling GMO's. Our only protection against GMO's is buying organic because it's illegal for organic foods to be genetically modified.

Which leads me to Chipotle. I'm not sure if you've ever been to their website, but they do one heck of a job wearing a gorgeous environmental loving costume. They throw around words like "food with integrity", family farms, naturally raised meats, and sustainable farming. They sponsored Food, Inc movie showings and even have the audacity to publicly boast about their relationship with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (a man who has TRULY changed the face of farming, not pretended to).

I went for a very long time without questioning Chipotle's use of genetically modified corn, but one day it hit me. If the corn was organic, I am sure they would find a place to boast about it, but I convinced myself that they must source conventionally grown non-GMO corn like other conscious businesses do. Take for example Whole Foods, they sell corn tortilla chips that are NON-GMO Project verified, which means the corn is conventionally grown from seed that has not been created in a laboratory. Surely if Whole Foods can sell a huge bag of tortilla chips for $2, Chipotle could seek out conventional corn farmers that grow real corn and make it work for their profit margin.

So I wrote to Chipotle, straight forward asking them their stance on GMO's. Finally, I heard back from them. Unfortunately they were BRUTALLY HONEST with me (full letter below). They use GM corn in their stores, the animals they purchase from ranchers were fed grain that was GM, essentially throwing out every single adjective they use to describe their food and business. Chipotle is one big greenwashing sham. They've got slick PR and Marketing departments, which they use to deceptively distract their customers from what they are really selling.

Chipotle, we deserve better. You can make the change, America will embrace it. Time to truly give us Food With Integrity, not Food With Illusion. In case you need to fully understand the definition of integrity:

integrity |inˈtegritē|nounthe quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness he is known to be a man of integrity.



Thanks for writing to us. We appreciate your concern over GMOs and I hope I can help. I know you are not asking about the corn salsa, but to be clear, the sweet corn we use in our corn-poblano salsa is not GMO. Our supplier does not purchase GM seed, and maintains a more-than-safe buffer zone between their fields and neighboring fields to prevent any cross pollination. This corn is also grown in the Pacific Northwest, near the facility that processes this corn. The peppers in this salsa are also GMO free.

Unfortunately, while we are able to secure suppliers for the salsa, we cannot guarantee that the corn used in our corn tortillas is non--GMO at this time. The field corn used to feed our livestock is also not organic (we don't buy organic meat today) and so we cannot guarantee that it is non-GMO. This is certainly a direction we are looking to take, but suppliers are very difficult to find. Also, since GMO foods are not segregated or labeled in this country, and the only way you can tell generally if something is GMO free is if it’s labeled specifically as organic and the price point for organic foods are too high at this time. We were able to find non-GMO corn for our salsa, but that is more of the exception than the norm. 

We are working on increasing our use of organic produce when the benefit outweighs the costs. For example, if we can find organic foods, but we have to ship them across the country, it could negate the benefits because of the impact of transportation. That's why we are also focused on using locally sourced produce whenever we can.

Unfortunately, there is much to be done to improve our current food system. We are not perfect, but we are working to make a change and we’ll likely never stop trying to make things better. GMO concerns are certainly among the things we are trying to improve upon and it is one of the reasons why our corn salsa is coming from non-GMO sources as we do want to give our guests options. 

I know that wasnt't the answer you were hoping for ad I'm sorry we aren't there yet, but we do want to be honest as we understand these things impact our guests' dining decisions.

SK | Customer Service Manager
Chipotle Mexican Grill




  1. Ugh. Don't even get me started on the rancid soybean oil that is in just about everything they serve as well! I wrote a letter to them about this a while back and will forward that response on to you if you are interested. Chipotle USED to be our one acceptable quick food on-the-go place, so I understand how you feel about this.

  2. Very disappointing, but I'm not surprised. While back in the states we RARELY ate at chain restaurants. Red Robin was once a year for the kids birthdays because I didn't like thinking about where their food came from. I think we all just need to give more business to the people that do put forth the effort in organic, NON-GMO food. And seriously, what an absolute insult to Joel Salatin. I KNOW he wouldn't support this company. I've been to his farm and he has a list of places where they provide their products to. Local farmers/ranchers need our business not these mass produced corporations who falsely advertise "all natural." And the letter back to you sounds like a typical response. Sad...

  3. Corn is pervasive, and in far more than just the typical food we eat. My newly discovered corn allergy has alerted me to the use of corn derivatives in places you honestly wouldn't think to look (and are pretty much guaranteed it's not organic): pretty much ALL medications, cleaning products, toilet paper, powdered sugar, most gluten-free packaged foods, the trays your meat comes on at the grocery store, plant-based plastics, synthetic wine corks, baby carrots and all other pre-washed produce, personal care products, makeup, hair care products, etc. The list is crazy long!

    We've all been ingesting this crap in one way or another for years and more and more people are discovering food allergies than ever before. It's truly a crime...

    I'm convinced that the modification of our food system has something to do with this problem. My girls and I have been eating mostly organic foods and using natural cleaners in our home and on our bodies for the past 10 years (since my youngest was born) but I'm discovering that plenty of GM food still made it into our systems and we all (my girls and I) have issues with gluten & dairy. The girls likely have issues with corn as well, but we haven't tested soy yet.

    As much as Chipotle's answer honestly sucks, they've got to be better than most restaurants. Between my new corn, dairy, gluten & soy allergies, there really isn't anywhere that I feel safe eating out any more.

  4. you shouldn't eat there anyways, their food gives you instant diarrhea.

  5. This is really disappointing because I eat there and pay the very high price because they advertise that they are a healthy alternative.

    Thanks for the update!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate it!

  7. Great post Denise! Good to know the truth and what still needs to be done!

  8. Denise, interesting post, but I disagree that "America will embrace it". America and Americans have shown, pretty consistently, that they are driven by the bottom line and they will pick and choose where they stray from that. I don't think America would embrace a burrito that is even 25% more expensive. The fact that taco bell is orders of magnitude more popular than Chipotle shows that most americans aren't particularly concerned with quality as it relates to price only re-enforces the position. Connie's above already thinks Chipotle is expensive.

    I think it's great that a large, national chain like Chipotle even exists, and while they might not check every box in your extremely stringent list, they are a better alternative than most fast food.

    I'll be first to admit that I'm not really all that against GMO's, but I suppose that's because no-one has shown me why I should be. I guess I'm far more concerned that there are over 1000 calories in your average Chipotle Burrito (equal to one and a half big macs). I'm not saying that's what everyone gets, but I am saying that high calorie diets and general obesity kills more people every year than GMO's.

    Regardless, I guess I just don't quite see why you're so upset. Every large company picks and chooses it's battles, and while they don't get everything right, they certainly seem to get less wrong than most companies. If you can make delicious burritos at home than meet all your criteria for the same of less money, go to town. If you can't, how do you think they can?

  9. What's the term for this? "Green washing"

    Whole Foods has been doing this brilliantly. It's funny how so many people come to me telling me "You can eat it, it's natural" - I look at the INGREDIENTS and not the misleading marketing on the package.

    When I read them the ingredients, their expression changes...

    Hence the importance of proper labeling of products.

  10. Great post. Thanks for sharing it. At least they were honest. Now we can be, too, and tell them we won't eat there until they change their ingredients. :)

  11. Yup, cookie cutter answer just as I suspected! It's sad to hear the real truth, especially when you've been told such a great cover story - that Willie Nelson song is a real clincher! Let's keep plugging away and spreading the word, we can reclaim our right to healthy, non-GMO food!

  12. While I agree with your rantings to a certain extent, chipotle deserves more credit then is being put forth. For one, you mentioned the aspect of tortilla chips from whole foods are sourced from non-GMO verified sources but are you familiar with the distance needed to complete transit with such ingredients? With gmo corn encompassing somewhere in the 90's in regards to the percentage grown and Chipotles commitment to cutting travel distance, it certainly makes sense in they have trouble sourcing non gmo without conflicting representatIve ideals.

    In regards to their using of soybean oil as a cooking staple there exists no excuse! This angered me but it seems they are beginning to listen as it has been verified they are making the switch to sunflower oil, which is certainly a better alternative and of non gmo variety. My point is while they certainly aren't perfect, give credit where it's due as they are trying and actually implementing change.

    The most important thing is people such as us keep inquiring and ask them to consider such applications, and to spread awareness of the possible dangers they put forth. Down with GMO's!

  13. I came across this blog entry when doing some online research about Chipotle after discovering some horrible truths about this organization. Although my story does not relate directly to the issue of GMO, I hope you will read my story and help guide me in how to raise awareness on this topic. My sister was recently employed at a brand new Chipotle that is opening this week. She has been in training there for 3 days now, and today I asked her how it was going. She explained to me the way training works: after doing the normal team building stuff and learning about the menu, they spend the majority of training actually making each item on the menu while taking turns working in each position on the line. She told me she made over 40 burritos and a ton of other items from there menu just yesterday. I asked her where all the food went after they made it. She then told me the terrible truth...that she packaged them up in foil, wrapped them in a bag, and personally threw each and every item straight into the garbage. I was appalled. I told her she needed to tell her manager that the food should go to a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen! She laughed and asked "do you really think you are the first person to think of that?" then she proceeded to tell me that when one of her coworkers asked their manager the same question, he told them that the store policy says "they are not allowed" to give the food away because they don't want homeless people to come to Chipotle thinking they can get free food. We did the math. If my sister is making 40 burritos a day (minimum) and there are 13 other employees doing the same thing...for three days? Its sickening. Now let me pause to say I am not naive to this subject. I know that MANY corporations throw food away. But the solution the this problem is SO SIMPLE. If they would just contact someone working in a shelter (like the one that is literally right down the block from my house) and just tell the person managing the shelter that they could pick up the food on the days they were training, then the people in the shelter wouldn't even have to know that the food was from Chipotle! This is just SO MESSED UP! I got in a big argument with my sister about this because I just can't understand how she can continue to work there when she knows they are throwing away perfectly good food that could help feed hungry children and adults! Her claim was that they clearly expense food for training, and its Chipotle's prerogative to do whatever they want with their food. But I can't just sit here, knowing this information and not try and make a change or at least spread awareness. The problem is I don't know where to start. I don't know if or how I should contact Chipotle or what the best course of action is. If every Chipotle in the nation is doing this, then what can I do? I live in Philadelphia and I walk by at least 5 people sleeping on the sidewalk every day, sometimes with children. If they just knew that the restaurant right down the street was throwing away HUNDREDS of dollars worth of food everyday...those kids wouldn't have to go to sleep hungry. What should I do? Where should I start? I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to go on a tangent...I just found this post in my research and wondered if you would have any advice?

    If you would like to contact me, please email me at srenninger@uarts.edu



    1. I don't know about your sister's store but Second Helpings picks up leftover food at our Chipotle all the time.

  14. We are a family committed to eating non-GMO as well.
    As has been said "ignorance is bliss" that is, until the day our health begins to fail, and we sit around looking in amazement wondering how on earth it could happen to "me"!
    GMO's are the product of greed, and arrogant frankenstein evolutionary science, a direct offense against creation and nature itself.
    To those of us in the "know", we hear their "all natural" mantra, but know that they are only appealing to those who are ignorant of the facts, or who wish to stay willingly ignorant of the state of America the Corporation, not America, the beautiful, as it once was before the love of money, and the blinding greed of men bought her out.

    Thanks for a great post, and keep up the good fight.

    Kim in Atlanta

  15. Thanks for sharing this informative letter! Chipolte has always been our only fast food restaurant we eat at. After last nights dinner, I started wondering myself about GMO's & found this. I agree, corn chips have become so easily available & inexpensive, really seems no reason Chipolte can't make it happen!

  16. Thanks for posting this - I'm surprised that I found your blog and even more surprised that I fell for the Shitople bullshit "integrity" claims. Never, ever eating there again... Very enlightening! I will agree that they're "better" than other chains, but in direct contradiction to my never eating at chain restaurants, here is just another reason that I should never have changed my stance this time. I'll tell you, in California, the food looks so tasty and plentiful. DAMN!!!!

  17. Thanks for your post and for publishing Chipotle's reply. It just goes to show you that our food system is broken and needs repair.


I always appreciate the gesture to stop and take a moment to comment. Thank you!