Starting today, no single item on Chipotle’s menu will contain genetically modified ingredients. Co-CEO Steve Ells explained to CNN that the big change — a fast-food first — has taken the company years to achieve, because it had to wait for suppliers to grow enough non-GMO crops. “They say these ingredients are safe, but I think we all know we’d rather have food that doesn’t contain them,” he said.
Two years ago, Chipotle became the first restaurant chain to voluntarily label items that contain GMOs, so it’s been working toward this goal for quite a while. The major swaps are for GMO-free corn (an ingredient in multiple menu items), and from soybean oil to GMO-free sunflower oil (for frying tortillas and chips), rice-bran oil (for cooking rice and vegetables), and canola oil (for making tortillas). Chipotle’s beef comes from cattle that are pasture-raised and eat grass, but CNN points out that, for now, pork and chicken will still hail from animals that eat a genetically modified diet.
It seems like the biggest challenge was finding an adequate substitution for soybean oil: Lard was a no-go because of vegetarian concerns, and the industry’s go-to oil, palm oil, got rejected because of its environmental impact. The company settled on a canola oil that, probably like several of the other new non-GMO ingredients, costs a bit more. That might help explain the price spikes expected later this year.