Word of Mouth

Chipotle is gunning for 50 percent local produce this year

Chipotle Mexican Grill, the ever-expanding Denver-based burrito chain, which just opened its first international store in London, is now upping the ante in the local produce department by committing to use 50 percent of at least one produce item from locally grown sources in its restaurants.

In Colorado, that means leaning on jalapeños and red onions grown by Brighton's Petrocco Farms and romaine, jalapeños, bell peppers and red onions from Grant Family Farms in Wellington. The goal applies only to produce plucked from the ground during the region's growing season.

"Our aim is to get as good of quality as we can as close to home as we can," says Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold."The goal is to get at least 50 percent of at least one item everywhere, and anytime we can get more than 50 percent, we will."

It might not sound like much, but when you're dealing with the scale Chipotle works with, Arnold says, supply becomes a real issue. "We serve some 750,000 people every day so we need a lot of everything," Arnold explains.

The 50 percent goal is an increase over 2009's 35 percent and 2008's 25 percent. Eventually, the local program could -- and likely will -- evolve into something else, Arnold says. One possibility is using more organics, which is currently not a priority of the chain's local program.

"With the local program, the first objective is to build up a network of local and regional farms, and once we get that established we might look at organic but right now that's not part of the program."

One organic ingredient Chipotle does rely on is beans. Forty percent of the chain's supply is organically grown, Arnold says. That comes out to 7.2 million pounds of beans this year.

[Insert fart joke here.]

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jessica Chapman
Contact: Jessica Chapman