Chipotle has finally reached its goal of going GMO-free.
The burrito chain announced today that all restaurants will now only cook with non-GMO ingredients. This makes Chipotle that first national chain to completely strip genetically modified items from the menu.
The company explained the decision by pointing to inconclusive research on the long-term effects of genetically modified food, the potential negative impact of GMOs on the environment and customer demand for non-GMO offerings.
"We believe everyone should be given enough information about where their food comes from and how it was raised to choose for themselves what they feed their families," reads the company website explaining the decision. "We hope these principles of transparency and honesty extend beyond consumers to everyone who has a stake in the food system, and Chipotle respects the right of every farmer, rancher and grower to follow practices that make sense for their business, even if they do not make sense for ours."
Chipotle began labeling menu items that contained GMOs in 2013. Two major culprits were corn, which was an ingredient in tortillas, and soy, which was used in tortillas and cooking oil. While most corn and soy products made in the U.S. still come from genetically modified crops, Chipotle has now either removed these ingredients or turned to GMO-free variations, such as sunflower or rice bran oil.
There are a few exceptions. Most animal feed, including those fed at farms that produce Chipotle's meat and dairy, contains GMOs. Additionally, beverages that contain corn syrup, such as sodas, will still not be GMO-free. However, last summer, Chipotle began testing an organically sweetened root beer in select location – a test that suggests the future may bring more GMO-free beverages for the chain.
In addition to testing GMO-free soda, the chain has stated that its next area of focus in terms of boosting food quality is stripping additives and preservatives from the tortilla.
Chipotle's stringent food quality standards are currently cutting into sales at the chain, due to a pork shortage caused by a supplier's violation of the company's animal-welfare standards. Last week, the company revealed that fans of carnitas had, instead of ordering a new type of burrito, simply stopped visiting Chipotle until pork returns to the menu. Chipotle plans to gradually increase its pork supply over the summer, but will not be able to offer carnitas at all locations until the fall.