Chipotle has become the first major restaurant chain to announce it will begin serving only food that is free of genetically engineered ingredients, The New York Times reports.
Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive of Chipotle, said this is another step toward the company’s vision of changing the way people think about and eat fast food.
“Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors,” he said.
In 2013, Chipotle became the first restaurant chain to indicate which items contained genetically modified organisms. That same year, the company announced plans to serve more than 15 million pounds of locally grown produce in its restaurants this year, up from its 2012 goal of 10 million pounds.
However, it may be difficult for other major restaurant chains will follow Chipotle’s lead due to increased demand for non-GMO products making them more expensive and difficult to obtain in the amounts that big businesses need, The Times reports.
Chipotle, for example, has occasionally run short of beef, and last December it announced that it couldn’t supply all of its restaurants with the pork needed for carnitas after an audit unveiled that one of its suppliers had failed to meet its standards for raising pigs.
But Chipotle doesn’t expect to run into the same problem with supplies of non-GMO. ingredients.
“We’re working with our farmers to plan enough of these crops we need to meet our supply,” Ells told The Times. “With pork, it’s harder because we only need one part of the animal, the shoulder, and the farmer needs to sell the whole animal to make it work.”
It's easier for Chipotle to eliminate genetically engineered ingredients, as its entire menu uses just 68 ingredients.
Cutting out genetically engineered corn was easiest, Chipotle said. Its primary tortilla supplier was already producing non-GMO corn flour in small amounts, and it agreed to increase its production.
Flour tortillas posed a larger problem because the shortening had an oil in it that was derived from soybeans. Chipotle also won’t use lard for tortillas because of vegan and vegetarian customers, and it can’t use palm oil because of the environmental impact. Chipotle’s flour tortillas are now made with a more expensive non-GMO canola oil, which is why the company said last week that it might have to raise prices slightly this year.