farmers-market-tomatoes.jpgChipotle Mexican Grill will expand its local produce program this summer, buying 10 percent more seasonally available produce than last year.

Chipotle expects its program, the first of its kind for any national restaurant chain, to have more than 25 local farms in its network that will supply some of the romaine lettuce, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, red onions and/or oregano served at the 860-plus Chipotle restaurants nationwide.

“Our commitment to cooking and preparing food with more sustainable ingredients has always been about doing the right thing; the right thing for better tasting food, the right thing for the environment, and the right thing for farmers,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Chipotle. “Many consumers are just now starting to understand where their food comes from and how it’s raised, but we have known for a long time that there are many benefits to food that is raised right.”

According to a survey commissioned by Chipotle and conducted by Harris Interactive(R), consumers say that sourcing their food locally is becoming increasingly important for them; half of adults (51%) say that it is important for restaurants and markets in their local area to purchase produce and other ingredients from local farms in their area. Additionally, a majority of adults (52%) are likely to dine at restaurants that purchase produce from farms in their local area.

In addition to its commitment to serving locally grown produce, Chipotle says it serves more naturally raised meat (from animals that are raised in a humane way, never given antibiotics or added hormones, and fed a pure vegetarian diet) than any restaurant in the world. This year, about 35 percent of all of its beans will be organically grown, and all of the dairy (cheese and sour cream) it serves is made with milk from cows that are never given the synthetic hormone rBGH.

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