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Happy cows: Chipotle to use dairy products from outdoor cattle

Photo by matt northam via Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier this year, popular chain restaurant Chipotle Mexican Grill made a splash in media, music and environmental circles with “Back to Start,” a 2-minute short animated film promoting sustainable farming featuring Willie Nelson performing a cover of Coldplay song, “The Scientist.” After being showcased during the televised broadcast of the Grammy Awards in February, the clip went on to win the top award at the 2012 International ANDY Awards, a prestigious advertising recognition.

Continuing on that path towards more sustainable corporate practices, Chipotle announced this week a commitment to use dairy products made from the milk of pasture-raised dairy cows. Starting this month, 100 percent of the sour cream served in Chipotle restaurants will come from such pasture-raised cattle, which will be fed vegetarian, plant-based diets and never be given antibiotics or hormones, including recombinant bovine growth hormone. 65 percent of Chipotle’s cheese will meet the same standards.

"We are constantly looking at every ingredient we use to make our food and how we can get them from better, more sustainable sources," said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle in a statement. "For too long, food made with more sustainably raised ingredients has been out of reach to many consumers, but we are changing that. It's one of the ways we are changing the way people think about and eat fast food. Food made with these great ingredients should be available and affordable to everyone."

According to a recent USDA study, cows raised with regular outdoor access produced eight percent less greenhouse gases and 30 percent less Ammonia emissions that those raised in confinement.