DENVER Chipotle Mexican Grill is coming soon to movie theaters in 32 cities to promote “Food, Inc.,” the documentary film exploring the United States’ agriculture industry and its impact on the environment and the economy.
Through a partnership with Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media and River Road Entertainment, Chipotle will host free screenings of “Food, Inc.” across the country, advertise the documentary with promotional materials in its more than 860 fast-casual restaurants and prepare bonus-feature content for the movie’s DVD release.
The documentary, which advocates for a food supply that is more sustainable, local and organic, jibes with Chipotle’s Food with Integrity program, the company said.
“I hope that all our customers see this film,” Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and co-chief executive, said in a statement. “The more they know about where their food comes from, the more they will appreciate what we do.”
The film’s producers praised the chain’s commitment to sourcing local, organic or sustainable ingredients where it can.
“Chipotle is a great example of a company that’s on the right track to improving our food system,” said director Robert Kenner. “Chipotle’s philosophy shares many of the same values expressed in ‘Food, Inc.,’ and we are very pleased with their support of our film.”
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said the chain uses only naturally raised chicken and pork, sources locally grown produce when it is seasonally available and buys about 35 percent of its beans from organic sources.
But Arnold admitted that the supply of more natural and organic produce central to Food with Integrity simply isn’t abundant. Because of limited capacity from farmers and suppliers, Arnold said, Chipotle can procure naturally raised beef for only 60 percent of its needs, and there isn’t enough organic meat and produce to go around if other restaurant chains want to go that route.
“The more restaurants and foodservice companies want these better ingredients from more sustainable sources, the more the supply chain will move in that direction,” Arnold said.
"Food, Inc." features Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, authors of books critical of industrialized agriculture and the foodservice industry: “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Fast Food Nation,” respectively. Chipotle’s alignment with the movie is not meant to endorse the film’s indictment of the foodservice industry, Arnold said.
“Our own philosophy of Food with Integrity is very similar to many of the ideals presented in “Food, Inc.,” he said. “Our support of the film is in no way intended to be critical — or to support criticisms — of the restaurant industry, but rather to stimulate a dialogue. We think it’s important for people to understand where their food comes from and many of the issues that exist in our nation’s food supply.
“‘Food, Inc.’ is helping to stimulate that conversation, and we think that’s a good thing,” Arnold added.
Chipotle’s founder Ells tries to engage other restaurant industry executives in thinking about more sustainable sourcing through personal meetings and speaking engagements, such as the recent Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo. The company realizes, though, that moving toward sustainable sourcing requires significant expense and sacrifice.
“We recognize that our model is a hard one to replicate for large-scale operators,” Arnold said. “We started on this path when we were much smaller and have built our business model to support it. It would be a very hard thing to do at our current size. But we certainly encourage other big restaurant and foodservice companies to look for opportunities they can support, and for smaller operators to build their business around similar ideals.”