Encouraging better farming practices, one (huge) burrito at a time! Chipotle Mexican Grill has been recognized as an industry leader in promoting ethically raised, sustainable products since they first opened in 1993. Now one of the fastest growing food chains in the world, Chipotle’s newest video, The Scarecrow, has the internet abuzz. Released to support their new Chipotle Scarecrow game app, here’s the video:
Reviews have been overwhelmingly favourable (well, not from the food industry!), and the video certainly has people watching and talking. But is it any more than talking? If “The Scarecrow” tugged at your heart strings, as it did ours, what can you do to “cultivate a better world” and eat more sustainably?
We love the message of “The Scarecrow” video (and their earlier “Back to the Start” with Willie Nelson). While it may be a tad bit heavy-handed on the emotion-evoking, if you’ve read or watched anything to do with industrial farming practices (see: Fast Food Nation, The Ethics of What We Eat, Food Inc., etc.), you know reality is actually much more grim than an anthropomorphized sad-faced cow.
What Chipotle is trying to achieve is laudable and hopefully inspires people to think about their food choices a bit more (check out their Food with Integrity facts). However benevolent, they do still want you to eat more of their burritos!
Aside from eating Chipotle every day, here are some tips for upping the sustainability factor at your table:
- Source your food closer to home. There’s no better way to gain confidence in where your food comes from than asking the farmer directly! Whether from your local farmer’s market, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, or a trip out to a farm open house, getting to know who is growing your food is a great way to shrink the distance of your food loop.
A recent pilot study showed that CSAs were effective at increasing accessibility to veggies and fruit in low-income families (1). A lot of big-chain grocery stores are responding to consumer demand, so keep an eye out for local produce in your grocery store. Extra bonus? Local, in-season produce is usually cheaper.
- Reduce meat portions. Let’s face it, no one NEEDS to eat a 12 oz. porterhouse steak and most of us would benefit from eating a bit less in the meat department (and grain department, for than matter) and more on the veggies. The highest intakes of animal protein have been linked with an increased risk of pretty much every chronic disease (2). Load up your plate with HALF vegetables!
- Try Meatless Mondays… and Wednesdays. While we are not suggesting everyone become vegetarian, going meatless more often is another great strategy to improve your ecological footprint AND reduce your risk of chronic disease.
While strict vegetarian diets are associated with reduced all-cause mortality (3), following a non-vegetarian Mediterranean diet rich in plant-based protein like beans, legumes, nuts and seeds has been linked with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (4), cognitive decline (5), certain cancers (6) and heart disease (7,8)! For some vegetarian recipe ideas, we like Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times and Eating Well.
- Support businesses that promote sustainability. A growing number of chain and local restaurants are trying to buy local, sustainable ingredients. Trendy? Absolutely! But when trendiness is supporting positive change, is it really a bad thing?
We always suggest voting with your dollar, so supporting companies like Chipotle that are committed to sustainability is great. But keep in mind that just because Chipotle tries to source sustainable ingredients, doesn’t mean it’s a saint in the calories department! One fully-loaded chicken burrito will set you back nearly 1,200 Calories and over 2,000 mg of sodium. We suggest a Burrito Bowl instead!
- Keep it simple. While it would be wonderful if everyone could follow a local, seasonable and sustainable diet… it’s just not realistic, at least not all the time. Remember, like with all change adopting an all-or-nothing attitude is more discouraging than helpful. Start by identifying one area for improvement in your buying practices – whether it be sustainable fish, grass-fed beef or local eggs. The CDC Sustainable Food page and Sierra Club’s True Cost of Food have some great ideas!
- Quandt SA, et al. Feasibility of using a community-supported agriculture program to improve fruit and vegetable inventories and consumption in an underresourced urban community. Prev Chronic Dis 2013; [epub ahead of print].
- Pedersen AN, Kondrup J, Børsheim E. Health effects of protein intake in healthy adults: a systematic literature review. Food Nutr Res. 2013; [epub ahead of print].
- Orlich MJ, et al. Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA Intern Med 2013; 173(13):1230-8.
- Ajala O, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr 2013; 97(3):505-16.
- Féart C, et al. Potential benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on cognitive health. Proc Nutr Soc 2013; 72(1):140-52.
- Giacosa A, et al. Cancer prevention in Europe: the Mediterranean diet as a protective choice. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013; 22(1):90-5.
- Estruch R, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med 2013; 368(14):1279-90.
- Rees K, et al. ‘Mediterranean’ dietary pattern for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; 8:CD009825.