Looking for some grass-fed beef on the quick? Chipotle has you covered. Steve Ells, the fast food chain's CEO, has long touted his commitment to selling sustainable meat from places like Niman Ranch. But does it make a difference to customers?
Ells explains his reasoning in an interview with SmartPlanet:
I'd say a while ago people mostly thought about convenience in fast food. I think that we have shown that consumers can have fast food and great taste, and food with integrity. What I used to say is just because it's fast doesn't mean it has to be a typical fast food experience. When I started Chipotle in July 1993, I used fresh ingredients and prepared it in front of the customer. That's still true today, but along the way I realized fresh isn't enough any more. We need to understand where it comes from and how it was raised.
Noble sentiments, to be sure. But last year, Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle's Chief Marketing Officer, revealed that an "ethnography study" of Chipotle customers showed that the brand's emphasis on fresh, quality foods wasn't a big factor for most people. That's certainly not true of all customers, but it makes sense that people who search out fast food aren't that concerned about sustainability. After all, Chipotle and small chains like Burgerville are some of the only fast food joints that offer sustainable options.
Even if customers don't notice, we applaud Chipotle's emphasis on sustainable foods. Because any time a major brand pledges to, say, only sell grass-fed beef, it has a ripple effect through the entire beef supply chain.