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  • 11.30.15

This Is The First USDA-Certified Organic Fast Food Restaurant

Everything on the menu at Organic Coup–from the chicken to the sauce–is organic. Can it change how we think about what a restaurant can be?

There’s basically one thing on the menu at the first USDA-certified organic fast food joint, and it might not be what you’d expect from a health and environment-conscious restaurant: fried chicken.

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It’s served inside an organic bun or wrap, fried in organic coconut oil, covered with organic shredded organic vegetables and organic sauce, and raised on a farm not far from the restaurant. And the restaurant’s founder is hoping it will help change fast food.

“Fast food can be good food,” says Erica Welton, founder of Organic Coup, and a former buyer for Costco, who watched the transformation of the grocery aisle over the last decade and thought more of the same thing needed to happen in restaurants.

“You saw this huge shift away from conventional food,” she says. “As my own personal lifestyle became more entrenched in the organic food movement, I was looking for other options. I’m out with my kids–soccer games, basketball, running all around as a working mom–and there was this huge gap in convenient food.”

Welton often ended up eating at Chipotle, which brags about the organic and local ingredients on its menu. But she saw an opportunity for more. “I just started thinking more and more that there’s this huge hole,” she says. “People need fast, clean food that’s free of antibiotics and synthetic chemicals and pesticides.”

Having a tiny menu–just fried chicken on a wrap, bun, or in a salad, or a snack of organic popcorn–helped make it easier to source solely organic ingredients.

It isn’t the first fast food restaurant to serve an organic menu; not far away, Amy’s Drive Thru is also trying to reinvent fast food, and there are dozens or perhaps hundreds of others around the country. But Organic Coup says it’s the first to take the step to organically certify the entire restaurant.

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“I just felt like there’s a different level of guarantee when you see that USDA label,” Welton says. “There’s standards, parameters, there’s documentation, there’s full traceability and transparency when you have that logo.”

Over the next 14 months, Welton plans to open 25 new locations.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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