Fast food taking a step in a sustainable direction. Or is it?

I’ve never been much of a fast food eater (although I will guiltily admit to indulging on road trips) however I was intrigued when I began seeing articles about big name chains such as McDonald’s and Chipotle using sustainable and local products. Are these companies using the term “sustainable” and “local” as a marketing tool? Are they hoping to reach a broader market by introducing these changes? Or are they genuinely concerned with local businesses and preserving our natural resources? So many questions.

While Chipotle offers “fresher” ingredients and “healthier” options than most fast food joints, it is still considered a fast food restaurant. Chipotle was ahead of the crowd and began using locally sourced, organically grown produce in 2008 and vowed to increase their usage every year. Recently, the company announced that it plans to more than double that usage this year, increasing its national supply by at least ten million pounds. In many of its California locations where the growing season is almost year round, Chipotle uses local produce including avocados, peppers, cilantro and lemons and limes, as often as they can. With 1, 100 locations (albeit a laughable number compared to most chains), Chipotle should be able to source locally (defined by less than 350 miles from a restaurant location) a fair amount if they keep their “vow;” this is great news for Chipotle fans and fast food loving, health minded locavores alike. While a visit to Chipotle isn’t quite a home cooked meal with your CSA delivery, it appears that this is in fact, a step towards a more sustainable chain restaurant.

As Marion Nestle said, “a better-for-you processed food is not necessarily a good choice,” but it is a better choice, and not just for those consuming the product. Do you think these changes will have an impact on these chain’s local environment or our environment as a whole? Do you think this will change the way you look at fast food? Whether these changes are a marketing ploy or a genuine effort to convert to a more sustainable business model, it encourages a more sustainable way of thinking in a widespread population and will hopefully encourage other chains to follow suit.

Mallory Cushman is the Development and Communications Intern at Chefs Collaborative.

2011-07-15T13:02:29+00:00July 6th, 2011|Blog|2 Comments

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  1. Heidi from Savory Tv July 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve always respected the fact that Chipotle tries to use local produce whenever possible, and hope local conscious organizations will follow suit. Surely the motives are partially to help their consumer image and to sell more burritos, but none the less, I commend their efforts.

    Re: McDonald’s, a small step in the right direction. At least they are aware that many consumers care about where their food comes from, and perhaps this will lead to bigger and better efforts in the future.

    Thanks Mallory for the post!

  2. nancy hoving July 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Very interesting. I assume you’ve been following the successes and heartbreaks of Jamie Oliver as he tries to reform American eating habits.

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