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|Chipotle Becomes the First National Restaurant Company to Use Only Non-GMO Ingredients|
Company now shifting focus to creating an even better tortilla
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are crops that have had specific changes introduced to their DNA that don’t occur naturally, using the science of genetic engineering. GMOs are common in the American food system. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 94% of corn and 93% of soybeans grown in this country came from GMO strains in 2014. As a result, more than 80% of foods consumed in the U.S. contain genetically modified ingredients, by some estimates, making it very difficult for consumers to avoid GMO ingredients in restaurants or in food purchased in grocery stores.
“There is a lot of debate about genetically modified foods,” said
Chipotle became the first national restaurant company to voluntarily
disclose GMO ingredients in its food in
Chipotle suppliers planted non-GMO corn varieties to meet Chipotle’s needs for corn tortillas, and the company replaced soybean oil with sunflower oil to cook its chips and taco shells, and with rice bran oil for other recipes and uses. Both oils are extracted from crops for which there are no commercially available genetically modified varieties. Other GMO ingredients in tortillas were replaced with non-GMO alternatives.
While GMO advocates point to higher costs associated with producing non-GMO foods, Chipotle’s move to non-GMO ingredients did not result in significantly higher ingredient costs for the company, and it did not raise prices resulting from its move to non-GMO ingredients.
With the transition to non-GMO ingredients for its food completed, Chipotle has set its sights on eliminating the few remaining artificial ingredients from its tortillas. Excluding tortillas, the food on Chipotle’s entire menu consists of just 46 ingredients – nearly all of which are simple, whole ingredients that could be purchased at any local supermarket. By contrast, a typical Mexican fast food restaurant may use well over 200 different ingredients.
Tortillas are the only food item on Chipotle’s menu that contains any additives, which include a minimal number of preservatives and dough conditioners. While the company has made significant strides in reducing the number of additives in its tortillas, it is now embarking on a quest to eliminate all of the remaining additives. The goal is to achieve a simple recipe with only a few ingredients, much like tortillas made in more traditional ways that include only wheat flour, oil, water, salt and a starter for flour tortillas, for example.
Achieving this goal will be difficult and take time. Tortillas today are
made very quickly and require the use of dough conditioners to give the
tortilla the consistency that was once achieved by allowing the dough to
rise slowly. Chipotle is working in close partnership with its tortilla
suppliers and the
The company has developed new tortilla recipes and initial taste tests have been very encouraging, but it’s too early to say how long it will take before these new tortillas will be served at any Chipotle locations.
“We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food, and that means cooking with the very best ingredients – ingredients that are free of additives – but still serving food that is affordable, convenient, and most importantly delicious,” said Ells. “That’s really unusual in fast food, but that’s the quest we are on, and we continue to make progress."
For more information about Chipotle’s ingredients and its move to non-GMO foods, visit www.chipotle.com/gmo. To learn more about its quest to make tortillas even better, visit www.chipotle.com/tortilla-journey.
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