I was in my office yesterday contenplating what my contribution to Tastie Fish would be.
I was interested in covering the election until they called it, and could not find any stories that I believed be relevant, or even fresh.
At that moment, my friend Sharon bounded into my office, her face full of delight.
She informed me that she was going to Chipotle, food and good beer are among Sharon’s favorite past times.
Her consistent jubilance usually reaches its pinnacle during the mid hours of the day.
I told her I was considering writing a story on Chipotle, specifically how they make their meat.
At that moment we started debating the merits of my story, Sharon is a staunch supporter of Chipotle, and refused to believe that her beloved temple of sustenance should be subject to scrutiny.
Our argument was animated enough to catch the attention of another co-worker, Mason.
Mason entered my office, and offered practical reasoning for why Chipotle is amazing.
But I was undeterred.
After some more back and forth, I agreed to accompany them to the establishment for lunch, I also did some on the fly research before we departed.
I chose not to eat, but instead observed the food being prepared, and the general structure of the business.
There was also the question of how closley tied McDonalds and Chipotle actually are.
Chipotle and McDonalds are inextricably linked. Over the course of the last 24 hours, I have engaged in a few debates as to the ties between the two companies.
Turns our McDonalds was a major investor in the company during the formative years of development, McDonalds grew Chipoltle into a world wide business.
According to Wikipedia, Chipotle had 16 chains spread across the country before McDonalds bought a minority stake in the company, at the time McDonalds divested it’s shares as the majority investor, there was over 500 chains around the world, and McDonalds walked away with $1.5 billion after investing $360 mllion roughly.
It stands to reason that McDonalds implemented policy on a variety of fronts, and had a profound impact on the corporate culture. As far as processing meat, the two companies both use OSI, which has 60 different meat processing plants in 16 different countries, OSI being involved with Chipotle is largely due to the influence of McDonalds.
To be fair, the food that the two companies produce through the plants is different, but the meat is same in some cases.
According to Certified Humane, the plant in Chicago produces a variety a of food for both establishments
“Chipotle doesn’t do all of its own cooking: Two outside processing companies in Chicago, OSI and Miniat Holdings, braise the carnitas and barbacoa, trim the steaks, cook the beans, and make the bases for the restaurant’s green and red tomatillo salsas, all according to Chipotle’s specifications.
OSI, a global meat processing corporation with facilities in 17 countries, also supplies McDonald’s with its burgers, nuggets, and other “value-added protein items” on its menu.
Certified Human goes on to cite other provactive points
“The less distance food has to travel,” Chipotle’s website says, “the better.” Sourcing locally — defined by the company as within 350 miles from the restaurant — has long been part of the Chipotle mantra. It’s good for local economies, the environment, and the consumers, who get to enjoy the freshest foods.
But the ingredients for the carnitas, barbacoa, beans, and salsa bases, even when raised or grown just a short distance away from the restaurants serving them, have all traveled through Chicago, either through OSI or Miniat facilities.
Buzz Feed made attempts to understand the animal welfare side of this, but Chipotle evidently refused to reveal to the concerned reporters how exactly animals factor into this process.
According to the company website, the restuarant lives by the “Food with Integrity” mission statement.
In that mission statement, they address the issue of animal welfare.
They promote the fact that the animals live outdoors as oppose to confinement, they give them “space”, but don’t really specify what that means.
They also conceed that they do process “conventionally raised” meat from time to time, but “are sure to post signs in affected restaurants”.
I would have to ask my friends about one of these signs, but I personally have never seen one.
The mission statement is impressive, but “responsibily raised meat” isn’t a detailed description, so we can only guess.
But its most likely not a far cry from how McDonalds raises meat considering the relationship between the two companies.
“Conventionally” raising meat, and responsibily raising meat” are pretty much the same thing.
How different can it truly be?
Like Chipotle, McDonalds keeps the cows outside, but the cows are shoulder to shoulder, in these huge pens, often grazing in their own feces, and barely having enough room to turn around.
It would make sense for Chipotle to disclose the companies animal welfare practices, just so everyone knows what they are eating, and to distance the company from any perception that they engage in the same practices that McDonalds has.
They use the same processing plants, so its only natural to wonder.
Then of course, there is the problem of outbreaks that has afflicted Chipotle customers every now and again.
More than likely, most restuarants have issues, but Chipotle is on another level.
9 serious outbreaks in 8 years.
Virus that range from E.Coli, to to the Norovirus, even a Hepatitis outbreak was documented in California.
The outbreaks were later blamed on food “sourcing and handling practices”, which again raises the issue of animal welfare.
Some speculated that the outbeaks were caused by Chipotle raising organic food with manure. The Observer in North Carolina opined at the time that
“Chipotle’s “food with integrity” a “lucrative farce” and a “marketing ploy” by pointing out that organic food is “often grown with manure (an ‘all-natural’ fertilizer), which can certainly increase the risks of accidentally spreading fecal bacteria like E. coli.”
After going to Chipotle with Mason and Sharon, I looked over the nutritional literature that the establishement makes avaliable to the public.
I found it confusing, because a large amount of secondary sources were disputing the information on the guide.
The numbers on the handout just didn’t add up.
Most of the internet claims that one burrito from Chipotle contains 1000 calories, which is tantamount to eating 2 full meals.
Thats a TON of calories, thats more than a helping of Sonic, Arby’s, Burger King, Quiznos, really any fast food restuarant out there, but Chipotle is promoted as the “healthy” alternative.
Perception is 90% of reality, and I believe that applies there.
The food packs a punch, and is absolutley delicous according to my sources.
But it certainly is something that should be consumed in moderation, as is most fast food.
Chipotle is not totally unhealthy, but its one hell of a sitting according to great ideas
The majority of meals also contain a full day’s worth of the FDA’s daily recommended amount of sodium, at 2,400 mg, in addition to 75 percent of the amount of saturated fat.
Any meat burrito with the standard toppings—cheese, salsa, lettuce, sour cream, rice and beans—is likely to clock in at over 1,000 calories. And that’s not including the calorie-laden but oh-so-addictive chips and guacamole.
About one in 10 meals ordered by Chipotle customers had more than 1,600 calories. The burrito’s tortilla is a big culprit, as on its own it contains about 300 calories.
Now make no mistake, there is plenty of ways to eat healthy at Chipotle, the problem is most people don’t do that.
They want the big fat burrito, with Guacamole, and all the trimmings.
Which is anyone’s right.
After discussing it with my colleagues, visiting the eatablishment, I have come to the conclusion that Chipotle is not any more unhealthy than other fast food chains, but it ranks high in the peking order if you consider the facts.
I believe it’s a tremendous business, and I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from consuming the scrumptous food.
But lets dispense with the idea that Chipotle is somehow above McDonalds, or Wendys.
They are all cut from the same cloth.
Sharon will most like be displeased with this article, but I only have her best interest at heart.