Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples spoke with AgriTalk today about a planned sit down with Chipotle Mexican Grill founder and Co-CEO Steve Ells.
The planned meeting between Ells and Staples came about after it was announced that Chipotle would start sourcing beef from Australia. Staples sent an open invitation to Ells because he was shocked Chipotle would get beef from a country 8,000 miles away when an abundance of product is available in Texas and the rest of the U.S.
"The reality is we need to talk about the real factors. The factors are that customers enjoy American grown food and no one can supply that better than our farmers and ranchers," Staples says. "We believe that innovation and creativity are what have made American agriculture so successful today."
A meeting date between Staples and Ells has not been set yet as the invitation was just accepted this week.
"I think that we have beef producers all across America that would love the opportunity to respond to Chipotle’s requirements," Staples adds. "It is really about supply and demand, and price. It is not about production standards."
Staples believes that with an American cattle herd that is three times the size of Australia’s it shouldn’t be that difficult for Chipotle to source their beef "responsibly" from the U.S.
"It is just a matter of price point. We know that Chipotle is a multi-billion dollar company. They are going to make decisions that are economically right and what their customers are looking for," Staples says.
When the announcement first came out that Chipotle would source beef from Australia, Staples was most upset with the terminology that was used by the company, particularly that Australian beef was more "responsibly raised" than domestic products.
"My goal was that our restaurants and food providers know and understand that words matter," Staples relates. "You can’t talk about being responsible when your alternative is to ship in beef from 8,000 miles away and expand your carbon footprint."
Staple’s hopes the meeting with Chipotle can move forward discussions for producers in the U.S. about Chipotle’s standards and what it will take to keep that business in the country.
The Staples discussion with AgriTalk also worked as an olive branch to engage Chipotle in an AgriTalk interview next Tuesday at approximately 10:15 a.m. (Central Time).