Chipotle Mexican Grill plans to serve more than 15 million pounds of locally grown produce in its restaurants this year, up from its 2012 goal of 10 million pounds, according to a company press release.

“We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “That means pushing ourselves to find the best quality ingredients — ingredients that have traditionally been available only in high end restaurants and specialty food markets – and making them available in way that is accessible and affordable.”

With many people paying more attention to food and where it comes from, locally grown produce is on the rise. A 2012 Mintel survey of 2,000 adults found that more than half (52 percent) of U.S. consumers say it’s more important to buy local produce than organic options. Most produce travels some 1,500 miles from where it is grown to where it is consumed. All of Chipotle’s locally grown produce comes from within 350 miles of the restaurants where it will be served.

Chipotle will work with a network of more than 70 local, family-owned farms to provide bell peppers, red onions, jalapenos, oregano, and romaine lettuce for its restaurants. Chipotle restaurants in Florida and California also serve locally grown tomatoes, as well as lemons and avocados in California. Chipotle’s use of locally grown produce is rooted in its belief that local produce arrives at its restaurants closer to the time it is harvested and results in better tasting food. Supporting local farms also creates and sustains opportunities for family farms in rural communities around the country, according to the company.

Beyond its commitment to serving locally grown produce, Chipotle also serves more Responsibly Raised meat (from animals that are raised in a humane way and never given sub-therapeutic antibiotics or added hormones) than any other restaurant company in the United States; more than 120 million pounds in 2012. All of the dairy (cheese and sour cream) served at its restaurants is made with milk from cows that are never given the synthetic hormone rBGH, and more than 34 million pounds of all of its dairy is made with milk from pasture-raised cows. Additionally, the company currently uses organically grown oregano and cilantro and plans to serve 8.5 million pounds of organically grown black and pinto beans this year, according to the company.

Read more about sustainability.

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