I know I was guilty of it. I was letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. When Chipotle came out with its “Food with Integrity,” campaign/commitment, I have to admit that I was really skeptical. “It’s not enough.” I said. Being the annoying perfectionist that I can be. And I continued to rarely eat out anywhere. In other words, I put as much money into Chipotle as I put into Taco Bell: zero (essentially; this is definitely true for Taco Bell). Then one came to the town I currently live in; and it tore up the streets. People were out the door every single day for the entire first month that it was open. It was literal insanity. People camped overnight before it opened to get a taste of their food.
And it wasn’t because they have animal welfare standards.
I’ve since grown in my food ethics:
1. I started indifferent;
2. Moved to extreme low-fat high vegetable/whole grain nutrition belief;
3. Then swung far left to a sort of food asceticism which only would have been topped had I gone vegan or fruitarian;
4. Then to a modified version of that aceticism incorporating local meats;
5. Over to a lifestyle that I would describe as highly positive and justice-oriented in habit yet free from dogma. Here I stand.
The (5) stage of myself was more open to trying out Chipotle again. After all, I like to support the local restaurants in my small town anyway, and none of them have any sort of integrity practice woven into their purchasing (save a vegetarian restaurant, but it’s only a no-meat bias; they just now incorporated local spinach but other than that are not based around local agriculture).
So I decided that if I were going to eat out, I would rather choose somewhere that, though a chain, has stepped into the ring with an integrity message so highly pushed (on bags, cups, newspapers in stores, next to the “menu” button on the website) even though all of the folks I know that are die-hard Chipotle do not give a flying whatever where the food comes from. It’s just delicious. They didn’t have to do the whole food integrity thing, but they did. And man are they benefiting from it. My economically-centered mind gets the math. If more folks eat at Chipotle (or places like it or even with higher standards) it will become obvious that cheap crappy food isn’t the trend anymore. Other businesses will want in on that niche.*
With my new settling spot in some sort of moderacy, I am willing to be a portion of that decision-shifting market.**
So I eat at Chipotle to shift market dollars, and also for their amazingly delicious food and ingredients. So high in calories, you are probably thinking. Think not. There are ways that “hedonists” can get away with these unchurch-ed eats, as perhaps Martin Berkhan would say. I’ll do a follow-up post on this. Until then,check out what Chipotle’s integrity standards really mean. Compare Chipotle’s values and virtues with another chain in the market like Taco Bell. How do each of them approach food ethics (even if it is for their own personal profit)? Educate yourself on these terms, decide what you are comfortable with, if this is something that you want to support. Warning: Chipotle is expensive. Nix the guacamole, chips, and/or a drink and you’ll find yourself in a much more reasonable price range for a poo’ person like me.
*PROBLEM: greenwashing will ensue, yes, however not in all cases. Increasing food consciousness on all levels: from the consumer to the provider, will have a positive impact on our food system I am quite sure.
**YES, this can be “part of the problem” too. Trying to be more moderate, for the sake of mutual edification and love. Ask me that again in five years.
Special Note, Mark Sisson did a post on sustainable meat economics this very day (or at least one that touched on it). Mark’s all for growing the demand for grass-finished beef as well!