Chipotle: Fast Food Hypocrites

Chipotle claims to be ethical but its marketing is highly unscientific and harms animal welfare.

Chipotle’s marketing spins a false narrative to consumers that the company’s food is healthier and that the company’s practices are more ethical. Here’s what consumers should know:

  1. Chipotle promotes a local farm profile and is critical of big processing food suppliers. The deception is that its food is processed in large factories and the company shares a distribution chain with McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Chick-fil-A.

  2. Chipotle deceptively advertises its beef as free of added hormones. It doesn’t mention that all beef is low in hormones—lower than its pinto beans and tofu that have significantly higher levels of hormones.

  3. Chipotle claims its food is free of genetically modified ingredients. Yet that’s not true of Chipotle’s soda, and livestock used for Chipotle meat can be fed genetically modified corn and grains up until the day they are processed for food.

  4. Chipotle used to claim its meat didn’t come from animals that had been given antibiotics. Recently Chipotle quietly changed its standard on treating sick animals with medicines because it is getting meat from Europe. You won’t see that switch prominently advertised. They also don’t advertise that due to government regulations all meat is antibiotic-free.

There’s no problem with genetically modified foods or hormones present in foods (according to scientists), or giving antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy. But there is a problem with Chipotle pretending to be something it isn’t, and deceiving consumers in order to sell 1,500-calorie burritos.


Dubious Deception

Chipotle deceives it's customers by touting misleading information.

Chipotle has marketed its food as being antibiotic-free, meaning the animals were raised without the use of antibiotics. This has prompted some consumers to worry that regular meat—which comes from animals that were given antibiotics at some point in their life—is less healthy.

Worry not. As veterinarian Dr. Scott Hurd has put it: “It’s all antibiotic free.” If a farmer uses antibiotics to prevent or treat sickness in an animal, there are federal regulations to ensure that food from that animal is safe. The federal government mandates a withdrawal time for drugs so that animals can eliminate them from their bodies. This is no different than what happens in humans as drugs leave the system over days or weeks depending on the treatment. The government conducts random testing of meat to ensure safety, and can stop meat from being sold that doesn’t pass muster.

Even Chipotle apparently thinks antibiotic use isn’t a big deal—now that it needs to sell more pork, that is. Chipotle this year started selling meat from foreign suppliers. That meat comes from animals that may have been given antibiotics—but according to the revised Chipotle website, this “means that meat from a pig treated with antibiotics will not contain antibiotic residue, just like meat from an animal that was never given antibiotics.” That’s from the company’s website—it’d be nice if it clarified its misleading ad campaigns, too.

How To Speak Chipotle

  • 1) gmo-free

    Marketing term describing food that isn’t healthier or safer, but that does cost more.

  • 2) healthy

    Burritos with as many as 1,500 calories.

  • 3) sustainable

    We don’t know what this means but it sounds good.

  • 4) antibiotic-free

    Animals are denied medicine that could prevent disease. (Oh, and by the way, all meat you buy is antibiotic free!)

  • 5) sofrito

    A word we made up for tofu.

You Can’t Spell “Chipotle” Without “E. Coli”

Chipotle has been linked to three outbreaks of foodborne illness so far in 2015: E. coli in the Pacific Northwest, norovirus in California, and Salmonella in Minnesota. Foodborne illness is a serious matter, and Chipotle restaurants have closed in response to the disease outbreaks.

Contrast this sober threat to health with Chipotle’s deceptive marketing that gives its high-calories burritos a “health halo.”


  1. Chipotle has promoted some of its ingredient as organic. Organic food can be produced using animal manure as fertilizer. This provides an unnecessary risk for contamination of fecal bacteria such as E. coli. In 2011, an E. coli outbreak in organic bean sprouts killed 31 people and infected thousands in Germany.
  2. Chipotle has had an “antibiotic-free” policy for its meat suppliers, which falsely implies other meat has antibiotics in it. In truth, all meat is considered antibiotic-free.
  3. Chipotle switched to “GMO-free” ingredients for its foods, except for soda and meat. This is meaningless. GMO-free foods are just as safe as genetically modified foods, a fact recognized by scientific bodies across the world.
  4. Chipotle has made a big deal about some foods having ingredients with hard-to-pronounce names. Not only does Chipotle still use many multi – syllable ingredients in some of its foods, the pronounceability of an ingredient has nothing to do with its safety—which is why the FDA lists lots of hard-to-pronounce ingredients as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).

Much of Chipotle’s marketing is just a ploy to get people to buy gut-busting burritos. And in light of the disease outbreaks at Chipotle, the cost isn’t just to your wallet. Feel-good health halos won’t stop anyone from feeling ill.

The Chipotle Diet

One Chipotle burrito can have more calories than four and a half McDonald’s cheeseburgers.

Chipotle has concocted a variety of marketing ploys to sell its burritos — “real,” “integrity,” etc. What’s one that the company can’t credibly use? That its burritos are the paragon of health food.

“The typical order at Chipotle has about 1,070 calories. That’s more than half of the calories that most adults are supposed to eat in an entire day,” notes the New York Times. About 10% of meals had over 1,600 calories. Considerable percentages of meals exceeded the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat and sodium, too.

We believe Americans can make their own choices about what to eat and—yes—indulge if they want to. But we also don’t support false marketing that distracts from substantive issues.

B.S. Burrito

Chipotle claims to be ethical but its marketing is an empty ploy.

Chipotle’s misguided “Food With Integrity” slogan is almost entirely opportunistic: Chipotle broke its own rules after facing a major shortage caused by the company’s requirements.

Basically, Chipotle’s pig-housing rules caused the company to run so short of pork for its monster burritos that it had to stop selling carnitas in one-third of its restaurants. Because most U.S. farms use individual maternity pens for pregnant pigs—which is banned by Chipotle—the restaurant chain apparently had no alternatives. It’s strange that Chipotle didn’t want to use individual maternity pens since all major veterinary associations have approved them for use on farms and they reduce harm and fighting among pregnant sows. For more information on IMPs visit

This self-induced pork shortage hurt Chipotle’s profits, so the company bent its rules and now buys pork from a U.K. producer that meets Chipotle’s pig-housing requirements—though it didn’t meet Chipotle’s longstanding requirement of “no antibiotics ever.”