In an article in the Huffington Post, Steve Ells, founder, chair and co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, defended his company’s decision to supplement supplies of its premium beef with grass-fed meat from South Australia.
He said the company’s premium range, called ‘Responsibly Raised’ and comprising beef produced without the use of hormones or antibiotics, was being supplemented with Australian product, because as Chipotle had grown from 800 outlets to more than 1,600, its demand for antibiotic- and hormone-free beef from the US was outstripping supply. In the article, he said that, during 2013, Chipotle purchased around 45m lb of US beef under its premium scheme, but US supply was not keeping pace with demand.
He wrote: "Rather than serve conventionally raised steak, we recently began sourcing some steak from ranches in southern Australia, which is among the very best places in the world for raising beef cattle entirely on grass. The cattle are raised without added hormones, antibiotics or growth promoters by ranchers committed to humane animal husbandry."
The move to grass-fed beef is now part of a wider shift within the business. "In addition to the simple fact that our Australian grass-fed beef is delicious, serving it is an important step in our never-ending journey to help build a food system based on what we call ‘Food With Integrity’. Returning to grass-based farming systems for cattle is a core component of our long-term vision."
As a result, Ells is now hoping to persuade American producers to shift away from feed-lots to a grass-fed system. "Over time, we hope that our demand for grass-fed beef will help pave the way for more American ranchers to adopt a grass-fed program and, in doing so, turn grass-fed beef from a niche to a mainstream product.
"There’s no question that parts of the US are ideal for raising beef cattle exclusively on grass. Many American ranchers are doing this on a small scale today, and in the coming years we hope that American grass-fed beef becomes the standard in our restaurants.
"We’re optimistic that our decision to serve grass-fed beef from Australia is one small step in the larger journey of restoring the practice of raising great American beef entirely on grass."