American Meat explores the complexities embedded in the highly debated practices of the American meat industry. As the economy drives a contraction of conventional chicken, pork and beef operations, we hear the innovative methods of the charismatic, Virginia-based farmer, Joel Salatin. Joel, who is a leader of the growing niche of people who are opting for animals raised outside and without the use of antibiotics, believes that if more people become sustainable farmers, the movement could fracture centralized commodity production. Conventional farmers argue that small-scale farming can’t expand production enough to adequately meet the demands of the nation. As the dialogue ensues, Salatin signs a deal with fast-food chain Chipotle in a surprising move, with widespread implications for the industry.
Chipotle expects to use more than 10 million pounds of locally-grown produce this year, instead of the previously-forecast 5 million pounds. The restaurant is already the leading restaurant company in serving naturally-raised meat.
–at least as far as Chipotle is concerned. Whenever possible, they use locally farmed produce and meat, and meat that was not fed hormones or antibiotics.
They’ve had their best success with pork. Since 2001, 100% of Chipotle’s pork has come from “naturally raised” pigs, who eat a vegetarian diet without antibiotics and live outdoors or in a deeply-bedded pen. Beef has been more challenging, but the company has used the weight of its large demand to lean on suppliers and push them to improve standards, to the point that 85% of the beef they purchase comes from farms that meet the company’s “naturally raised” standards. They won’t purchase any dairy from cows that have been treated with rBGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone, to increase milk production, and they won’t buy chickens that have been fed antibiotics or other dangerous feed additives. Their goal is that one day soon all their meat and dairy animals will be pasture-raised.
Chipotle prefers to use organic produce, but is realistic about weighing the value of the “organic” label against the importance of sourcing produce from smaller farms that may follow organic-type practices but are not certified organic due to the required bureaucratic hoop-jumping. They also purchase produce locally as much as is practicable.
So the next time you, as a responsible consumer, have a craving for a burrito, patronize Chipotle over other burrito chains.