WOOSTER, Ohio — Known across the nation for their large, foil-wrapped burritos that satisfy even the heartiest of appetites, the fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill is becoming known for something less filling.
In the past couple weeks, the burrito giant came under fire from the ag community, as it reacted to Chipotle’s claim of producing “food with integrity.”
In March, Chipotle founder Steve Ells told the U.S. Senate his company is serving more “naturally raised meat” than any other restaurant, and from “animals that are raised in a humane way, and never given antibiotics or added hormones.”
The Chipotle Facebook page tells consumers, “we wanted to give you a break from junk, in our advertising … and most importantly in our food.” The page also says “we prefer to work with small family farms that raise their animals responsibly and humanely.”
Behind the scenes
But there’s another entity Chipotle is working with, and that may be what has upset farmers most — The Humane Society of The United States.
Chipotle is a business supporter of HSUS’ campaign to specify “certain minimum standards” to the newly formed Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Several hundred comments have been left on the Chipotle Facebook page, under titles like “Done with Chipotle” and “Bashing Agriculture.”
Kristin Reese, of Baltimore, Ohio, had little patience for Chipotle, or HSUS. “HSUS had their way in CA,” she wrote in her post. “Now CA’s poultry industry is leaving the state (and) increasing food costs, costing jobs and hurting the economy.”
Reese said many of the things called for by HSUS are already law in Ohio, and concluded HSUS is “a vegan wolf in sheep’s clothing,” one that she and other consumers are eager to uncover.
Caitlyn, a 17-year-old family farmer, said, “I live on a farm where we believe that farrowing crates create a safe and clean environment to our livestock. As do many other farmers in Ohio and the United States.”
She said “(farmers’) livelihoods rest on these decisions, which is why we are so concerned. Think twice about other people (not just animals) before you support this issue. Have a heart.”
Mitch, of Columbus, said “you (Chipotle) just lost a customer by supporting the HSUS and their objective of pushing a vegan lifestyle on Ohioans. Doesn’t make sense to me. You sell meat but support a group that promotes a vegan lifestyle.”
Efforts to reach Chipotle’s Ells were unsuccessful, but in published interviews and news releases, Ells said his business philosophy “is solidly based on a foundation of not exploiting animals, the environment or people.”
Chipotle appears to be the only big-name food chain to support the HSUS ballot initiative in Ohio, but is among a long list of what HSUS bills as its victories.
HSUS has a history of buying stock in companies, and then as a joint owner, it promotes its “humane” standards to the company directors, using lawsuits and sanctions against businesses that do not comply.
HSUS lists Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Denny’s, Red Robin, Quiznos, Sonic, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. as some of its cage-free egg successes; as well as supermarket chains like Wal-Mart, Costco, Harris Teeter, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Safeway.