There’s no doubt about it: we all need food to get through the day. Whether your dinner is a quick meal on-the-go or a nightly affair at your family’s dining table, there’s an extensive process behind the food on your plate. When you consider the time, money, and work that was put into the food in your refrigerator, it brings a whole new meaning to any meal.
Here, we’re going to break down the backstory of a meal from Chipotle, a well-loved American fast-casual restaurant selling Mexican fare. By learning where and how Chipotle gets their ingredients, we can better understand how our meal choices impact the world around us.
Chipotle’s Sourcing Process
Chipotle sources many of its ingredients from local farms and suppliers. This is in contrast to most fast-food chains, who source all of their ingredients from just a handful of national manufacturers. This significantly cuts down on the distance that Chipotle ingredients travel from farm to restaurant.
At The Farm
Meat and Dairy
Most Chipotle meals feature meat and dairy. As you may expect, it takes several steps to get meat and dairy from the supplier to your mouth.
Let’s say that you choose chicken as the protein in your Chipotle dinner. The journey of that chicken from the farm to your plate goes like this:
- The chicken is born in the hatchery at a Chipotle supplier. Chipotle’s chicken suppliers are located in Minnesota, Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina.
- The chicken is raised in a grow-out house, where it’s provided with food and water to grow into a full-sized chicken.
- The chicken is sent to a processing plant, where it’s stunned, bled, scalded, de-feathered, eviscerated, and chilled. This process prepares the chickens for use as a food product.
- The chicken is sent to a harvest plant, where it’s cut and deboned. The chicken is also pre-marinated in Chipotle’s adobo marinade at the harvest plant.
- The chicken is sent to a distribution center, where it then travels to a local Chipotle restaurant on a truck.
Chipotle administers both in-house and third-party audits for their meat and dairy products. The company also sends employees for regular visits to their suppliers to check facility conditions and to make sure that their guidelines are being followed.
Vibrant produce is an essential component of Chipotle recipes. The fresh fruits and vegetables sourced by this restaurant are:
- Romaine lettuce
- Lemons and limes
- Bell peppers
All of this produce is first sourced from a local farm. Once the produce is grown and ready for consumption, it’s sent to a packing house or produce house for cleaning and preparation. Tomatoes and cilantro are sent to a processing plant to be washed and diced.
Once packed and ready, Chipotle avocados are sent to a ripening center before reaching the distribution center. The rest of the produce goes straight to the distribution center.
Chipotle uses tortillas without artificial preservatives or industrial additives. The tortillas are made with only four ingredients: water, flour, salt, and canola oil.
Hodo Soy Beanery, based in California, is Chipotle’s tofu supplier. The Beanery uses certified organic soybeans sourced from Indiana and Illinois.
Rice and Beans
Chipotle purchases white and brown rice and black and pinto beans from various suppliers across the country.
At The Restaurant
Once the ingredients have reached the Chipotle restaurant, they’re handled by trained crew members. The ingredients are cooked, prepared, and served according to the company’s methods. A kitchen manager oversees the cooking of your Chipotle meal, while a service manager oversees how that meal is delivered to you. All crew members undergo training before serving you.
The making of a Chipotle meal involves the extensive effort of farmers, distributors, managers, directors, and crew members. The process begins as soon as a tomato seed is planted or a chicken egg is hatched, and it continues until the food hits your plate. So, the next time you dig into a Chipotle meal, remember the long journey it took to reach your fork.