Chipotle Needs More Domestic, “Responsibly Raised” Beef — Will You Produce It?

Debra Murphy, 2013

Chipotle Mexican Grill — you know them from such controversial advertisements as: “The Scarecrow” and “Farmed and Dangerous” — has been urging American farmers to supply more beef that meets their standards. In fact, similar to A&W in Canada (check out Andrew Campbell’s opinion piece on that decision), Chipotle has decided to cross the globe for beef.

“The beef supply in the US is at a 60-year low, and we can’t get all of the Responsibly Raised beef (from cattle that are raised in a humane way and without the use of antibiotics or hormones) that we need,” wrote Chipotle’s communications director in response to an email inquiry. “We have seen this supply challenge going back to last year and, between the relatively low supply and our growing demand, we would absolutely like to see more producers raising cattle that meets our standard. In the meantime, we have decided to fill some of that supply gap with grass-fed beef from Australia (a place that is ideally suited to raising cattle on grass) rather than filling it with domestic beef that is conventionally raised.”

RelatedPoll: Is marketing of food “differences” good or bad for farming?

In the past, Chipotle used domestic, conventionally raised beef to meet its growing demand, but recently decided they “would rather serve beef that meets or exceeds [their] higher standards.” Those standards for meat, are what Chipotle has termed “Responsibly Raised” — that is, raised “humanely” and without the use of antibiotics or added hormones.

Knowing the controversy surrounding much of the aforementioned marketing tactics utilized by Chipotle, I had to ask the representative: “Do you think the advertisements Chipotle ran in the past will have an impact on ranchers’ decision to sell to Chipotle?”

The response was matter-of-fact.

“No. Not in any way. We have not lost suppliers, we simply can’t get all that we need between our growth (we need 20%-plus more of every ingredient we use compared to the prior year) and a beef supply that is at a 60-year low. We had been filling that gap with conventionally raised beef, but prefer the grass-fed beef from Australia as it meets (or exceeds) our higher standards.”

In a game among stakeholders, Chip seems to have declared “check.”

But with beef prices keeping many optimistic, it’s hard to believe anyone is making time for chess.


Debra Murphy

Debra Murphy is a Field Editor based out of central Alberta, where she never misses a moment to capture with her camera the real beauty of agriculture. Follow her on Twitter @RealAg_Debra


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