Growing Local Roots

Pigs on a Farm, Not in a Factory: Chipotle Opens in Kalamazoo

By: Analiese Grohalski

The Chipotle restaurant chain opened its doors in early November introducing their Food with Integrity philosophy to the Kalamazoo area and focusing on naturally raised meats from farms instead of factories..


The scent of grilled chicken, steak and pork from the chipotle adobe marinade along with the braised beef and pork wafts through the new Chipotle Mexican Grill in Kalamazoo.


Although the burritos, tacos and salads are created quickly in an assembly line style of ordering,


The Chipotle restaurant chain practices

Food with Integrity, according to

Jennifer Craig, a local store marketing

consultant, which means all of their

products are naturally raised and

bought from farmers, not factories.

This philosophy extends to the new

Kalamazoo Chipotle which opened

November on West Main Street in

Kalamazoo, Mich.


"Food with integrity means you respect the animals, treating them with respect -- just letting them live the way they are meant to live. Animals aren't meant to live in a factory," Craig said.  


Naturally raised means that the chickens, pigs and cows are fed a vegetarian diet, like they were meant to, and are not pumped full of hormones, Craig said.  


"Our CEO chose to use naturally raised animals because, not only for the integrity of the animals but the flavor too," Craig said.  


Chipotle also caters to the vegetarian crowd with vegetarian black beans and several vegetarian options on the menu, which is full of flavor, Craig said.


She also said the distinct flavor of the meats is obviously from any marinade but on it but also because of the use of naturally raised animals.


Local Kalamazoo customers support Chipotle's focus on Food with Integrity.


"I like the Food with Integrity thing," said Ben Thomas, 43, of Kalamazoo. "It makes me feel better about eating out. Plus, my kids love the burritos."  


While sitting with her roommate during the Kalamazoo Chipotle opening day, Michelle Webb, a junior at Western Michigan University, agreed.


"I think that happy milk comes from happy cows, wait or is it cheese"? Webb asked. "Plus it’s just depressing thinking about all those little chickens [in the factories].  It’s just rude."  


Because Chipotle is against using factory farms, Webb said she feels better about eating there instead of at other fast food restaurants. As she dug into her burrito, she said another benefit is that you buy one meal and you get two because you have to cut it in half and save the second half for later.


Chipotle's Food with Integrity practices may also provide some health benefits for customers.

"With organic food there are no pesticides, no GMO (genetic modified organism).  The pigs are not pumped with hormones to make them bigger or anything but fed organic food," said Jill Feil, Nature Health Center manager who has worked with organic food for about six years. "They are a lot more healthy. You're not eating all of the chemicals and pesticides."  She said that the pesticides used in non-organic products may contribute to diseases.


Feil said a lot of people are scared to eat organic, but she said it actually has a nice taste. "The majority of people are leary about it because it's different," she said.


A lot of times people equate organic as more nutritious than non-organic when they are actually fairly similar nutrition-wise, said Gretchen Kauth, M.Ed., a registered dietitian at Sindecuse Health Center at Western Michigan University.  But she added that there are plenty of reasons to eat organic.


“The three key principles of nutrition I try to emphasize are variety, moderation and balance,” Kauth said. “It looks like the [Chipotle] restaurant provides the variety, but it’s the person who needs to provide the moderation and balance.”


“It’s amazing that the flour tortilla has 290 calories,” Kauth said. “Certainly what you choose to put as your filler could make it healthy or could make it unhealthy.”


It has to do with how you balance you day, Kauth said. If you eat poorly throughout the day and then come and get a 700 calorie burrito, it won’t be healthy. However, if you balance it properly, it can be fine, she said. Kauth added that the size and activity level also must be taken into account. An average adult woman will differ from a 6 foot football player with regard to the amount of nutrition and calories needed.


Chipotle's menu offers items with a wide range of calorie options and a wide range of total fat and saturated fat, which is good for providing a balance in one’s diet, Kauth said. A wide variety of choices ensures a wide variety of nutritious options, she said.  Kauth noted an absence of menu items with trans-fat, which studies have shown could lead to illnesses such as heart disease.


"With any menu, one needs to read over it," Kauth said. "The pinto beans are cooked with bacon, which could be a concern for vegetarians."


The portion size of the meal also needs to be taken into consideration, Kauth said.


One of these burritos can be split with a friend or saved for later, Kauth said.