October 4, 2012 update: Today, Chipotle signed an agreement to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program. The CIW’s plans to protest Chipotle’s Cultivate Festival have been cancelled. Click here to read more.
On Saturday, October 6, Chipotle Mexican Grill is hosting a Cultivate Festival in Denver, Colorado, the home town of the food chain. Featuring music, master chefs, and local farmers, the free festival is a celebration of the sustainable agricultural practices featured in Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” marketing campaign.
“Each dish will be created around fresh, responsibly grown ingredients from local farms,” according to the event’s web site. “Chipotle restaurants in the Denver area source red onions, romaine lettuce, bell peppers, and jalapeños peppers from Petrocco Farms and Grant Family Farms.”
It all sounds very good, doesn’t it? Who could argue with a sustainable supply chain and the humane treatment of animals?
One thing missing from this picture is a major ingredient in its products that Chipotle doesn’t mention: fresh tomatoes, which the corporation can’t possibly source locally year-round. From November through April, over 90 percent of the fresh tomatoes consumed in the United States are harvested in Florida.
Chipotle also doesn’t mention that it has denied repeated requests from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to join their acclaimed Fair Food program, which has made notable progress in improving wages and working conditions for Florida farm workers who harvest tomatoes.
The CIW, Just Harvest USA, and Denver community members will a hold a peaceful procession outside the gates of the Cultivate Festival in Denver’s City Park to raise public awareness that Chipotle’s commitment to “Food with Integrity” is lacking an essential ingredient: the human element.
“There can be no legitimate definition of ‘integrity,’ sustainability or social responsibility when it comes to food without the participation of farm workers and respect for our fundamental human rights,” said CIW organizer Oscar Otzoy.
Beginning at 4:00 p.m., the protesters will gather at the Denver Museum of Natural Science and make its way around the perimeter of the festival. After the procession, the group will gather for a vigil led by prominent Denver community leaders and clergy, to begin at 5:30 p.m.
“As farm workers—the human beings actually confronting the poverty wages and labor abuses every day in the fields—we have yet to have a role in Chipotle’s vision,” explained Gerardo Reyes of the CIW. “Instead, Chipotle insists on pursuing an impossible ‘go it alone’ approach to social responsibility. Under their plan, Chipotle says it will review its own code of conduct and decide if any changes are needed, Chipotle will check its own payments for accuracy under its penny per pound plan, and Chipotle will verify its own compliance with the changes it is proposing.
“That’s just not credible. Transparency, verification, and commitment are essential elements of the agreements we have reached with other fast-food leaders, and they are fundamental aspects in any defensible definition of social responsibility.”