When I first tasted yummy goodness, otherwise known as Chipotle’s crispy chicken tacos, I had no idea that I was eating “consciously”. All I knew was that Chipotle was close to my office and you could simply print out one of their order forms and fax it to them. My office usually placed a Chipotle order once a week and I have to admit, I wish I could have eaten there everyday. Had I realized that I was treating myself to food that was made with integrity, I might have done just that.
What is food consciousness? I define it as being aware of what is in your food and where your food comes from. When Chipotle’s founder, Steve Ells, appeared on the Oprah Show a few years ago, I discovered from the interview just how unique Chipotle was. Chipotle procures their meat from farm (or naturally) raised animals that are antibiotic-free and treated humanely. They also try to get their dairy and produce from local farmer’s markets to ensure their food is organic and not loaded with chemicals. Chipotle’s motto of “food with integrity” comes from the fact that they truly believe in providing their customers with food that was made with respect, so to speak.
It wasn’t until I watched the documentary, Food Inc., that I realized the impact of what Chipotle was doing. Most restaurants simply purchase the cheapest meats, produce and dairy possible so that their profits are higher while farmers raise their animals horrendously because, again, it’s more profitable. The sad thing is that this is all FDA approved so it’s completely legal. It doesn’t matter that we are given food full of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals. It doesn’t matter that cows are corn fed (which isn’t natural) and chickens don’t see the light of day. All that matters is the bottom line, money.
But I do understand the plight of the farmer. According to the Food Inc. documentary, most farmers would rather raise their animals and produce the right way, but it’s extremely expensive to do so. Without policy changes within the FDA and the public’s demand for naturally raised food, farmers have to resort to cheaper alternatives just to stay afloat. Unfortunately, the alternatives are not humane and not “natural”.
Here in Las Vegas, there is a project called Farms to Restaurants located downtown. The mission of this project is to connect local restaurants with local farms in hopes that the partnership will be mutually beneficial; local farmers and ranchers will get more business and the restaurants will serve better quality food to their customers. It’s a win-win. However, the project is severely underfunded and has only signed on five restaurants since its establishment in the summer of 2011.
So what can we do as consumers to ensure we our eating “consciously”? Actually, there are quite a few things we can do.
Support Our Local Farms and Ranches
Michael Pollan, novelist and food activist, told Oprah, “We’re going to have to change the way we support farmers and encourage them to grow real food,” he says. “People need to decide for themselves.” Although Las Vegas is more known for its casinos than its farms, these properties do exist here. The Farm, located in the northwest part of town, is one of the oldest operating farms in the valley. They sell fresh eggs and produce to residents and local restaurants. Unfortunately, like most farms, they aren’t rolling around in money and do ask for donations which go towards the upkeep of their animals.
Eat at Restaurants that are Food Conscious
We all know that Chipotle is food conscious but did you know that Panera Bread actually purchases their chicken from Chipotle because the meat is farm-raised? Like Chipotle, Panera Bread wants to give their customers top quality food by offering organic produce and antibiotic-free chicken. But, are there other restaurants here in Las Vegas that offer the same promise? Yes, there are.
Read more about local restaurants putting “farm” food on their menus: http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/farmers-help-las-vegas-restaurants-go-local
Let Your Voice Be Heard
Unless laws are changed and there is a huge public demand for better food, we will just have to rely on those few restaurants that believe in sustainably and humanely grown food. But is that good enough? This busy mom of three thinks not. The power of the consumer is greatly underestimated, not by the seller or manufacturer, but by the consumer herself. Without our business, restaurants would not survive. So why not take a stand? If we as consumers voice our demands and prove to these restaurants we only want top quality food, then wouldn’t it only make sense that they will comply? But it would take a collective effort and a greater push to bring awareness to our community that we should eat better, cleaner, healthier and most importantly, consciously.
Vote With Your Fork!
What do you think of the food conscious restaurant? Tell us your thoughts.