In the following days after Chipotle Mexican Grill’s official statement announcing their plans to import Australian grass-fed beef to meet their “Food With Integrity” and “Responsibly Raised Beef” standards because United States cattle ranchers were not able to meet the demand, cattle producers and industry leaders have taken the time to speak up about the situation.
“As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I truly appreciate the past efforts made by Chipotle to support family farms and your company’s dedication to serving locally-grown products. However, I am shocked by your recent decision to start serving meat that’s been shipped in from more than 8,000 miles away. I also was dismayed by your misguided and irresponsible declaration that this meat is somehow more “responsibly raised” than meat produced by Texas ranchers. American consumers deserve better,” wrote Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples in a June 16 letter to Chipotle’s founder, chairman and Co-CEO, Steve Ells. “I personally invite you and the Chipotle team to meet face-to-face with myself and other Texas beef industry leaders to discuss how we can help supply Chipotle’s growing demand for fresh, healthy beef. After all, Texas beef would not have to travel thousands of miles and leave a substantial carbon footprint before ending up in a Chipotle burrito.”
Two California ranchers, Darrell Wood, an organic, grass-finished beef producer, and Darrel Sweet, a conventional beef producer, have spoken openly and clearly on the Facts About Beef Blog about the differences in their methods and how the environment dictates what practices they are able to utilize. For example, Wood has summer and winter pasture available for his grass-fed operation, while 185 miles south, Sweet’s grass remains dormant six months out of the year, making it essential he uses conventional methods in order to meet his goals.
“My pastures are green only six months out of the year, the other six months they are dormant or brown. If I were to produce grass-fed beef I would have two options, I would need to cut my herd size in half in order to allow for enough feed or I would need to stock feed accordingly when the grass is dry. Both options would not be economically viable for my business, ultimately leading to the end of our farm a farm that I am the 5th generation to work on; my grandchildren are the 7th generation,” says Sweet.