chipotle

After disclosing last year on its website which of the Chipotle menu items contained genetically modified ingredients, the restaurant chain is making good on its promise to go GMO-free.

With a strong commitment to “food with integrity,” Chipotle Mexican Grill’s sustainability mission has long included supporting local growers and producers, as well as transparency about its ingredients. Now, avoiding genetically modified foods is factoring into that definition as well.

“To date we have eliminated virtually all of the G.M.O. ingredients in our food,” Ells recently told Food Business News. “Our corn and flour tortillas are the only foods we currently serve that are made using ingredients that contain or could contain trace amounts of G.M.O.s, and now we are testing new non-G.M.O. recipes for these tortillas and we hope to be able to roll them out by the end of the year.”

When the chain revealed which ingredients on its menu contained GMOs, there were few items that could be eaten besides beans. Rice, meat, (except for the pork carnitas), and the tortillas, all contained GMO but are now virtually GMO-free (as Ells mentioned, tortillas still contain GMOs). Without using 100 percent organic dairy or meat products, though, it’s also possible that the animal products served in Chipotle’s restaurants are still being sourced from animals fed GMO grains. Soft drinks and sodas served in the restaurants are also likely to still contain genetically modified sweeteners or aspartame. Still, in less than a year’s time, the company has mostly removed GMOs from the menu.

“The values behind our ‘Food With Integrity’ philosophy influence virtually every decision made at Chipotle,” Founder Steve Ells wrote in an op-ed in the Huffington Post earlier this year.

“We’re always willing to consider the possibility that we don’t have all the answers, but try as we might, it’s been tough for us to come up with a rock-solid argument against Chipotle’s position on GMOs,” Ells wrote. “Multiple national surveys have been conducted about GMO labeling and the consumer’s right to know what’s in our food. The results have been fairly consistent: more than 90% of Americans are in favor of knowing when they are eating foods made with genetically modified ingredients.”

So, it seems making the shift away from GMOs was a priority for Chipotle (right along with making a mini-series about the atrocities of Big-Ag). The Chipotle menu upgrade comes at a cost, though. The chain is raising its prices for the first time in three years, with new menu boards rolling later this quarter. But it’s for good reason, says Ells: “[G]enetically modified foods hold out promises that are at best untested, and at worst unrealistic. Traditional edible plants and animals have evolved alongside humans over thousands of years to provide the people who eat them with essential nourishment. In exchange for this, we have an obligation to those plants and animals to keep caring for them responsibly.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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