By Jason Knapfel for DietsInReview.com
Chipotle Mexican Grill has just announced that it’s going to double the amount of locally grown produce used in its restaurants. They say they expect to use more than 10 million pounds of produce from local farms in 2011, which is an increase from about five million pounds last year. Among the produce it gets from local farmers are bell peppers, jalapenos, oregano, red onions and romaine lettuce.
So, why is it such a big deal that the company feels like they should promote their use of locally-grown produce? There are many benefits, from the taste of the food to the impact on the environment.
Benefits of Staying Local
Fresher and tastes better – One of the more common sense benefits is that local produce is fresher because it gets to you quicker. If it’s fresher, it most likely tastes better too.
Local foods are allowed to ripen, which is another reason it tastes better. According to Michael Pollan, author of such books as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, the average food item goes 1,500 miles from the farm to the consumer’s dinner table.
Peak nutrition – When you buy locally-grown foods, they are also more likely to be in peak nutritional form. Nutrients are depleted over time with exposure to the elements.
Less contamination – The speed with which food is delivered to you from a local source also decreases the chances that it will be contaminated. Even if there is cause for concern, if you know where your food is coming from, you know when and when not to eat it if you hear news of an outbreak, like e. coli.
Variety – When you eat locally-grown foods, you will naturally eat a variety of foods. Every food has a season, so they will be grown exclusively at certain times of the year in your area.
Help the environment – You will be helping the planet as well if you buy locally-grown foods. Since they travel a shorter distance, less fossil fuel is burned to get it to you. You are also supporting local farmlands that may otherwise be bought out by developers.
Support your local economy – Besides the health and environmental reasons for buying local produce, remember that you are also supporting your local economy. That means you’re supporting jobs in your hometown, not to mention the taxes and revenues that come as a result from a prosperous agricultural business.
So, whether it’s for your health or the earth’s, or supporting local businesses, there are many reasons to applaud Chipotle and to encourage other restaurants to follow in their footsteps.