Author Topic: Steve Ells CEO of Chipotle: Food with Integrity  (Read 4598 times)

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Steve Ells CEO of Chipotle: Food with Integrity
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2009, 08:40:35 AM »
Founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill Steve Ells
    * What It Is
    * Steve’s Vision
    * Manifesto

What It Is:
"Food With Integrity" isn't a marketing slogan. It's not a product line of natural and organic foods. And it's not a corporate initiative that will ever be finished or set aside to make room for other priorities. It's a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy. And when we say better, we mean better in every sense of the word- better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce.

The hallmarks of Food With Integrity include things like unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal. And, since embracing this philosophy, it's had tremendous impact on how we run our restaurants and our business. It's led us to serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country, to push for more sustainable practices in produce farming, and to work with dairy suppliers to eliminate the use of added hormones from their operations.

It's even influenced the way we view other aspects of our business, from the materials and systems we use to design and build our restaurants, to our staffing and training programs.

We like the food we serve today. And, because of our Food With Integrity philosophy, we're confident that we'll like it even more down the road.
Steve’s Vision:

When I opened the doors to the first Chipotle near the University of Denver in 1993, I didn't have a grandiose political statement in mind. Just the opposite, really.

What I wanted to do was simple: apply the techniques I had learned at the Culinary Institute of America and in professional kitchens into making great tasting burritos and tacos with the best ingredients I could find. Price them reasonably and serve them up in a hip, friendly, casual environment.

The concept seemed to me straight forward and altogether needed. Done well, it would let me show that food that was made fast didn't have to be like typical fast-food.

Of course it never occurred to me that someday we'd have hundreds of restaurants, and that each would strive to offer people something a little better.

One of the reasons I've always loved cooking is that it challenges me as much as it pleases me. I'm always looking for ways to improve upon what I've done.

For years, it bothered me that our carnitas didn't taste how I wanted them to. They weren't bad, but I knew they could be better. I tinkered with the recipe, but it still wasn't what I wanted.

One day I was reading acclaimed food writer Ed Behr's newsletter, The Art of Eating. In it he wrote about Niman Ranch and Paul Willis, a farmer in Thornton, Iowa who ran his hog farming program and raised pigs the old-fashioned way. The way it was done for many years before factory farms grew prominent in the 1960s and 70s.

The pigs Behr wrote about got to frolic in open pasture or root in deeply bedded barns. They weren't given antibiotics. The farmers who raised them truly cared about the welfare - and well-being - of the animals in their care.

In short, these farmers relied on care rather than chemicals, and practiced animal husbandry the way their parents and grandparents had, and their parents and grandparents before that.

Sometimes, moving forward means taking a few steps back.

After I read Behr's article, I knew that the trouble with our carnitas wasn't the recipe. It was the commodity pork we had been using.

The majority of pigs in this country are raised in extremely inhumane conditions. Often, thousands of pigs are crowded into a single confined facility, known as a CAFO or Confined Animal Feeding Operation.

Many of them spend their days in crates that don't allow them enough room to turn around. Some are housed together in group pens, but in quarters that are still so cramped they can't exhibit their normal tendencies. Animals are more prone to disease in confinement, so they are typically given antibiotics for most of their lives.

Learning about this dark side of modern agriculture made me want to find out how we could do things differently. So I got on a plane to Iowa to visit the Niman Ranch hog farms, including Paul Willis's. And that was where my own revelation took place. It was clear to me visiting Paul's farm that his way of raising pigs was a better way to do it. That's what I wanted for Chipotle.

In 2001, we began buying our pork from family farms like Paul's that raise pigs humanely and without antibiotics.

We call this return to old school animal husbandry naturally raised, and it's an essential part of our larger Food With Integrity mission to source the highest quality ingredients from the best sources. And, in the process, to help create a more sustainable food chain that emphasizes the welfare of people, animals, and the land.

Today, in addition to all of our pork and all of our chicken in the US, more than 50 percent of our beef is raised in this way. And someday soon, all of the meats we serve will be naturally raised.

It was very gratifying for me to read a recent interview with Ed Behr in which he said that the best thing to come from anything he had ever written had been the article on Niman Ranch and Paul Willis for how it influenced Chipotle to buy naturally raised pork. Indeed, Behr's article inspired us to use our size to fashion a more sustainable agriculture through Food With Integrity. And it led directly to Chipotle buying more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country.

I never aimed to be an activist for family farms or sustainable agriculture, but I'm proud of the change we've helped to achieve. The vision I started out with at our first Chipotle has never dimmed. In fact, it has grown from meeting people like Paul Willis, whose own vision exemplifies the kind of change Food With Integrity is all about.

Food With Integrity is our mission, but we know that at the end of the day, we can't judge our own integrity. That's for our customers to decide. So all I can say is that we are still leading from what we believe is right, and constantly striving to improve the way we do things.

Steve Ells:
Chipotle Manifesto

Why romaine lettuce when iceberg will do? Why tread the muddy fields of Iowa to see how pigs are raised? Why toast the cumin before you grind it? Why cumin, indeed?

The reasons are as simple as better-tasting burritos, and no less ambitious than revolutionizing the way America grows, gathers, serves and eats its food.

Doing all these things better, from start to finish, is our mission. We call it Food With Integrity. It energizes everything we do in our restaurants and behind the scenes. It cannot be captured in a food bite, or a sound byte. So read on.

Let's begin by dismissing the myth that freshness alone means superior food quality. Is it important? Of course. But freshness, at Chipotle, is simply a given. In the unending pursuit of quality food, using fresh ingredients is where you start, not where you finish.

At Chipotle we have a very focused menu. Our customers like that, and it gives us the opportunity to concentrate on every single ingredient that makes up our recipes.

Food With Integrity means working back along the food chain. It means going beyond distributors to discover how the vegetables are grown, how the pigs, cows and chickens are raised, where the best spices come from. We learn how these factors affect the flavor of the finished product. And what we can do to improve it.

Take our carnitas, for example. In pursuing new sources of pork, we discovered naturally raised pigs from a select group of farmers. These animals are not confined in stressful factories. They live outdoors or in deeply bedded pens, so they are free to run, roam, root and socialize. They are not given antibiotics.

Consequently the pork they produce has a natural, moist, delicious flavor. We think it tastes better and is better for you. Our customers love it. And because they do, we buy all we can. By creating a market for meats raised in a healthier environment, we make it worthwhile for these farmers to raise even more. That's how Food With Integrity works for everyone.

Today we're doing the same with new sources of chicken, beef, beans, avocados and even lettuce. We'll be doing it with every item that goes into our menu.

Food With Integrity is not a fad. It has been part of Chipotle since we started in 1993. Its importance has grown as we have grown. And make no mistake, growth can be good. Our size helps us influence the decisions of our suppliers. And it lets us shoulder our way into the consciousness of the American eating public. Like we're doing now. Our size means we can change for the better the way more people eat.

What does all this mean for you? In the short term it means better-tasting tacos and burritos. If you have been with us for several years you will have already noticed a difference. Looking forward, it means encouraging growers to pursue humane and healthy practices, and rewarding farmers who eschew mass production in favor of quality. It means new and higher expectations from all of us about what we consume every day.

Have we achieved our mission? No. Will we ever accomplish it? Never, because Food With Integrity is a constant process of searching and improving. But the changes will be noticeable, positive and significant. And you're part of making it happen, every time you come in.

Further Reading: Available from Back 40 Books,com)
· Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma:  Buy Now:
· Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: Learn More:

    * Pork
    * Chicken
    * Beef
    * Beans
    * Dairy
    * Nothin’ but the facts.

Most pigs do not spend their lives on open pastures, but live in Concentrated Animal Feed Operations, or CAFOs. The conditions in a CAFO are bad, even horrendous. In many ways, they look more like factories than farms. Pigs are crowded so closely with other pigs that they must be given antibiotics from a young age to avoid the spread of infection. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, American pork producers use 10 million pounds of antibiotics per year to keep their confinement raised pigs from getting sick. That’s more than an estimated three times the amount used to treat all human illnesses.

Pigs raised in these "factory farm" conditions, about 95 percent of all of the pigs raised in this country, often don't even have room to turn around in their crates, let alone experience the outdoors. It's stressful and inhumane for them, and it's surely not healthy for us either.

We think there's a better way to do things.

It's called old-fashioned animal husbandry, which means farmers rely on care, not chemicals, to tend their animals and their land. Pigs raised in this way are not given antibiotics, and their feed does not contain animal by-products. They are free to roam the pasture, to root in deeply bedded barns, and to socialize with other pigs.

We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we've ever tasted. We call pork produced according to these standards naturally raised, and sourcing it for our restaurants is part of a larger mission we've dubbed Food With Integrity, an ongoing quest to source the highest quality food from farmers who care deeply about the welfare of their animals, their land, and their communities.

Since 2001, all of the pork served in our restaurants has been from pigs raised in this humane, ecologically sustainable way. In addition to all of our pork and all of our chicken in the US, more than 50 percent of our beef is naturally raised. And we'll continue until all of our meats in all of our restaurants meet this standard.

Once again, naturally raised pork at Chipotle means:
· No antibiotics, ever.
· Letting pigs exhibit their natural behaviors in open pasture or
  deeply-bedded pens.
· Vegetarian feed with no animal by-products.

When we began buying naturally raised pork in 2001, it made us take a fresh look at all of the food we serve. We called this idea "Food With Integrity," and wanted to know as much as we could about how animals are raised and vegetables are grown, we started to look at everything we buy and how we could make it better.

The next step after pork was naturally raised chicken.

The supply for this better chicken is scarce, so we started small, buying naturally raised chicken only for a few markets at first. That amount has grown over time as demand for naturally raised chicken has grown, and today all of the chicken we serve in the US is naturally raised.

To meet our naturally raised standard, chicken must:
· Never be given antibiotics.
· Have more room to move about than in conventional chicken
· Be vegetarian fed, never given animal by-products.

Food With Integrity is about taking the long view. It's about figuring out how we can use our size and influence to create enduring change. Today, more than fifty percent of our beef is from farmers across the country who meet the naturally raised criteria set forth in our Food With Integrity standards. Naturally raised beef costs more, but we think it's worth it. We're working overtime to make all of our beef, in all of our restaurants, naturally raised within the next few years.

When you order naturally raised beef at Chipotle, here is what you are getting (and not getting):
· No added growth hormones, ever.
· No antibiotics, ever.
· Vegetarian feed with no animal by-products.

In the beginning, all farming was sustainable. Farmers relied on an intimate knowledge of the seasons and the nuances of their land to make decisions that would nurture their crops to harvest. That's not the case anymore. Consumers must look to organically grown produce to find anything grown in ways similar to the ways of previous generations.

Over last 50 years or so, an agricultural revolution of sorts took place that replaced traditional farming methods with automation and the use of synthetic fertilizers. It made things easier, but in the process it also drove a lot of small farms out of business - and a good deal of the flavor out of our food. And the long-term implications of these changes aren't fully known, but the evidence isn't particularly good there, either.

Our Food With Integrity mission is about a different kind of revolution, one that represents a return to the organic and sustainable farming methods that worked quite well for hundreds of years. We're off to a great start by sourcing as much naturally raised meat as we can (already more than any other restaurant in the country), and by using cheese and sour cream that's free of the synthetic hormone rBGH for our burritos and tacos.

Another Food With Integrity initiative we're pretty proud of involves our beans.

Every year we increase the amount of organically grown beans we buy for our restaurants. Today, 30 percent of our beans are organic. We'd love it if all of our beans could be organic tomorrow. Unfortunately, it takes time for supply to meet the demand, but eventually we hope that all of our beans at all of our restaurants will be organic.

Left to nature, dairy cows produce up to eight gallons of milk a day. This natural way has worked well for man and cow for eons. So, why mess with it? Unfortunately, someone has.

Agricultural chemical companies have formulated a synthetic hormone that is injected into a cow to artificially increase milk production. Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is used in the United States, but banned elsewhere. Many farmers report that rBGH causes maladies such as udder infections and joint problems. Those synthetic growth hormones end up in the milk we drink.

We think some things should be sacred. Like dairy. The cheese and the sour cream at all of our restaurants is free of the synthetic growth hormone rBGH. We're not scientists, but ingesting hormones with our crispy tacos just doesn't seem like a good idea.

Chipotle's decision to use only rBGH-free dairy is just another step along our Food With Integrity journey - bringing you the very best ingredients from the very best sources.

Nothin’ but the facts.
·Our foods at Chipotle have no artificial colors or artificial flavorings.

· Our foods contain zero trans fats. Although by law we can say that our large burrito tortillas and our small soft taco tortillas contain zero trans fatty acids, they actually contain a negligible amount. Since a serving of our large burrito tortillas and our small soft taco tortillas contains less than 0.5 gram of TFAs, we are required by the FDA to declare the content of these tortillas as "zero” grams. The rest of our foods do not contain any trans fats at all.

· We use no peanuts, tree nuts or any other kind of nuts in our foods. Only our cheese and sour cream contain any dairy. And there are no eggs in our foods.

· Chipotle is the largest restaurant buyer of avocados and naturally raised meats in the country.

· We offer a number of vegetarian and vegan dining choices.

· There’s a picture of Evans, our first restaurant, in every Chipotle.

· The Evans restaurant was originally a Dolly Madison ice cream parlor.

· Chipotle’s first restaurant manager, Joe Stupp, still works for us as Manager of Duct Tape and Plungers (the website guy).

· We’ve only had one change in our menu in 13 years—the addition of salads (and chipotle-honey vinaigrette) in 2005.

· Steve Ells modeled Chipotle after the taquerias in the Mission District of San Francisco.

· Over three hundred of our restaurants currently recycle glass, plastic, and/or cardboard.


Summer 1999
    Steve reads about Niman Ranch in Ed Behr's The Art of Eating Quarterly.
October 2000
    Chipotle begins serving naturally raised pork.
June 2002
    Chipotle opens first green building at Brodie Lane & 290 W in Austin, Texas.
October 2002
    Chipotle begins serving naturally raised chicken at a few locations.
August 2003
    Chipotle opens in New York, and all meats served there are naturally raised.
January 2004
    Chipotle begins serving about 10% organically grown black and pinto beans.
March 2004
    Chipotle opens second green building at 8th & Congress in Austin, Texas.
October 2004
    Chipotle converts to frying oil with 0 trans fatty acids long before it became an industry standard.
January 2005
    Chipotle increases its percentage of organically grown black and pinto beans to about 15%.
    Chipotle implements plastic and glass recycling in 70 restaurants.
January 2006
    Chipotle serves 20% organically grown black and pinto beans.
August 2006
    California Avocado Commission endorses the avocado sustainability program developed by Chipotle.
January 2007
    Chipotle increases its percentage of organically grown black and pinto beans to about 25%.
January 2007
    Smithfield, the country’s largest pork producer, announces the gradual elimination of sow stalls, credits Chipotle as inspiration.
July 2007
    Chipotle begins serving sour cream free of the synthetic growth hormone rBGH.
June 2008
    Chipotle begins to purchase some of its produce from local farms.

The good stuff the good stuff comes from:

duBreton, A taste for healthy living

Niman Ranch, Raised with Care

Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative

Blue Water Free Range Pork

Creekstone Farms

Meyer Angus Beef

Painted Hills Natural Beef

Pure Country Premium Gold Angus Beef

Harris Ranch Natural Beef

Beef Marketing Group

Star Ranch Natural Angus Beef

Niman Ranch, Raised with Care

Springer Mountain Farms

Gold'n Plump


Bell & Evans, The Excellent Chicken


Full Story in Newsweek:
« Last Edit: September 02, 2009, 08:47:46 AM by TheOldBuzzard »