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.