This week's column at Good considers Chipotle, the burrito chain that promotes itself as being super-green and ethical. I'm not convinced they are--it's a business, not an NGO--but I am convinced that they talk about this a lot in their marketing, which is significant in itself.

I do, however, think they should take my advice and come up with a half-sized burrito. They could call it the "petito" and sell it for about $4 dollars. I'd buy it!

Joseph Biel
12/01/2011 09:47


I agree with you completely about the smaller burrito! I love Chipotle, but I often find it difficult to finish one of their huge burritos.

On a more serious note, I appreciate your reporting both on your blog, on Democracy in America, and in the Economist (not to mention on BloggingHeads).

12/02/2011 02:19

One of the first and most ubiquitous food chains in the UK to wear its ethical credentials on its sleeve has been Pret:

I think the demand/expectation of a certain level of quality and welfare has permeated society here, to the extent where McDonald's eggs are free range, their coffee fair-trade and their fish certified by the MSC.

You can be sniffy about their motives but it's hard to imagine that the scales they deal with won't have some positive impact, both on the environment (providing the certifications aren't misleading) and of raising public awareness of these ethical/lifestyle choices. I'm not of the view we can all source our food locally and eat organic, or that it's necessarily desirable.

It's true that some has been more marketing over taste/reality. The term organic has been used sometimes tenuously, and other phrases meaningless. I was buying a turkey in the supermarket last week for Thanksgiving with an American friend and he asked, looking at a chicken, what a 'freedom' chicken was - "like the fries?" he joked. I couldn't say.

12/02/2011 10:05

Joseph: me too with the burritos (and thanks for reading!)

Ben: that's interesting about Pret--I've never noticed. I wonder if the best way for a company to maximize the positive social externalities would be to narrow their focus to one or two very clear commitments: we are only going to buy fairly traded coffee from now on, or only going to buy sustainable fish, as opposed to the broader platform of "we're going to try to make the conscientious decision." And beyond that, I suspect these efforts are most effective (from a marketing perspective) if the normative goal has some logical connection to the business model, which is why Chipotle's use of naturally raised meat, as being better for both the animals and the burrito, is the most prominent part of their overall "food with integrity" campaign...

I suppose everyone's bundle of preferences is going to be idiosyncratic, both because people have slightly different priorities and because it's hard to assess the sincerity of the marketing when you're standing in the supermarket aisle. If it's something I buy routinely, like coffee, then I usually have a rule of thumb (in this case, fair trade, ideally from Mexico, Honduras, or Guatemala) but beyond that I try not to get too neurotic about it.


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