COLUMN: Chipotle’s Real Foodprint shames customers for food choices

The new Real Foodprint initiative simultaneously allows Chipotle to blame customers for their increased carbon emissions while taking responsibility for their shortcomings.

Jamie Holcomb is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about campus life and social justice for The Maneater.

Chipotle launched a new initiative called Real Foodprint to make customers aware of the carbon and water footprint of their food compared to industry standards. It asks customers to choose their food based on its impact on climate change while allowing for increased transparency of how Chipotle sources its food. Chipotle receives less blame for being unsustainable, wrongly putting the onus on individual consumers to minimize their impact on the environment.

Real Foodprint is calculated by analyzing the individual impact of each ingredient on Chipotle’s menu, and this information is put into measurable data. There are five key points: reduced carbon emissions, organic land supported, water saved, antibiotics avoided and improved soil health. Each of these plays a role in impacting the environment.

Chipotle seems to have good intentions behind this initiative by bringing awareness to consumers’ environmental impact. However, they place the burden on customers to choose a meal that has a low impact instead of taking more responsibility for the company’s impact through sourcing. Chipotle has been able to reduce its carbon emissions by over 4,000 tons in 2019 and should continue reducing its environmental footprint.

While Chipotle made a commitment to lower its environmental impact with the Real Foodprint initiative, it unfairly targets the customer. Individual choices make a small impact on the devastating realities of climate change, while companies are responsible for most emissions. Seven billion people can certainly make a collective difference through individual actions, but Chipotle’s emissions total over 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This metric doesn’t include the food they source, which can have a high carbon footprint as well.

Consuming meat and dairy correlate with more carbon emissions — this is the fault of the agriculture industry. Meat and dairy make up 18% of calories yet produce over half of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture causes just over 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Chipotle can reduce this impact by sourcing from smaller and more sustainable farms. Sustainable farming includes rotating crops, preventing erosion to mitigate soil loss, and a host of other practices.

It’s difficult for consumers to choose an environmentally friendly option when that isn’t being offered to them. Pressuring customers to choose different food options isn’t effective long term. Chipotle should take more responsibility by providing more sustainable ingredients and further reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

Chipotle admits that there’s room for improvement on their part, including lowering greenhouse gas emissions for the beef they source. This kind of transparency is rare for a brand, especially one as popular as Chipotle, but it still isn’t enough. They should focus on their plans for the future to reduce emissions, such as sourcing beef from farms that use rotational grazing.

While choosing sofritas, which is braised tofu, over steak may lessen one’s personal carbon footprint, Chipotle needs to change how they source their ingredients. The bulk of carbon emissions comes from animals or farms themselves and land use. Chipotle has control over sourcing food sustainability and should put effort toward the goal of decreasing emissions. In the collective effort to stop climate change, companies becoming more sustainable leads to more meaningful progress.

The Maneater is encouraging readers to donate to The Youth Direct Action Fund, which helps monetarily support organizers everywhere that are committed to fighting for climate and racial justice. Donate at: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ycaf_

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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