Food movement leaders speak: Stop the Chipocrisy!

Open letter to Chipotle CEO: CIW’s Fair Food Program “a golden opportunity to… address historic inconsistency in your approach to social accountability.”

In the lead up to Chipotle’s “Cultivate” festival in Denver — and to the Campaign for Fair Food’s counter festival to protest Chipotle’s exclusion of farmworkers from its vision of a sustainable food system — an open letter is circulating among leaders of the country’s food justice movement that levels a devastating critique at the self-styled “Food with Integrity” leader for its indefensible blind spot when it comes to human rights.

Already, several key figures in the growing movement for food justice have signed on to the letter — including authors Eric Schlosser, Frances Moore Lappe, Raj Patel, and Barry Estabrook, and grassroots leaders Ben Burkett, Anim Steel, and Tom Philpott — and the letter is expected to continue gathering support in the week ahead.

You can find the letter in its entirety here. It is well worth taking a few minutes to see what Chipotle’s decision-makers will be reading this week as their company continues to pursue its charm offensive to win the favor of the food movement. That offensive, in which the Cultivate festivals figure importantly, will inevitably continue to be haunted by the contradiction at the heart of Chipotle’s definition of sustainability until the company owns up to that contradiction and joins with farmworkers in a genuine partnership for farm labor rights.

To get you started on the letter, here is an extended excerpt:

Open Community Letter to Chipotle on Behalf of the Sustainable Food Movement

Dear Mr. Ells,

As chefs, small and family farmers, food writers, urban gardeners, sustainable food advocates, and food sovereignty groups, we write united in the expression of our deep concern with Chipotle Mexican Grill’s current stance towards Florida farmworkers and their innovative Fair Food Program (FFP). We urge your company to enter, without further delay, into an authentic, verifiable partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) by making a binding commitment to the Fair Food Program – the first large-scale program for verifiable, durable social accountability in the domestic produce industry…

… Chipotle markets itself as a sustainable business leader by promoting its ethical purchasing practices and trademarked slogan of “Food with Integrity.” And indeed, we applaud the genuine efforts your company has taken in the areas of animal welfare, organic produce procurement, and support for small and family farms. You have helped bring about meaningful advances in those sectors through your purchasing power and your public advocacy.

Yet when it comes to farm labor rights, Chipotle has no real record whatsoever to point to, and your company’s response to the Fair Food Program – which has presented Chipotle with a golden opportunity to partner with farmworkers as it has with small farmers and so address this historic inconsistency in your approach to social accountability – has left even your strongest supporters shaking their heads. Chipotle’s current go-it-alone approach excludes farmworkers, lacks accountability, and makes no long-term commitment to human rights – essential elements for any defensible definition of social responsibility. Without this binding commitment, Chipotle is under no obligation to stop buying tomatoes from growers where workers’ rights are violated, the cornerstone of the Program’s success…

… As members of the sustainable food community, we remind you that respecting human rights is a core principle in building a sustainable food system in our country. A commitment to serving “Food with Integrity” cannot be just another marketing slogan that cashes in on a trend. It must be a holistic vision that respects the rights of farmworkers in our country… read more

You can read the letter in full here. And if you are interested in adding your name to the letter, you can contact us at

There is much more to come in the build up to Saturday’s big Cultivate festival in Denver, so check back soon for all the news!