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Chipotle vs. Moe’s – What’s Really In That Food?

3/22 Update: Chipotle responded and agreed to release ingredients online in response to petition started after this blog post. Check out the latest and what’s safe to eat at Chipotle here and a news report here

Before I get into the meat of this next investigation (no pun intended), I’d like to express my disappointment with Chipotle and Moe’s. Both of them made it extremely difficult (just like Yoforia) to get the exact ingredients in their product offerings. With marketing phrases like “Food with Integrity” and “Feed the Moement” – you’d think their messages would easily be backed by ingredients they would be willing to share. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all and it took extreme perseverance to get quality information about their ingredients. Perseverance the average consumer would likely never have.

It’s saddening to watch two competitors leading the way in organic/local/healthy fast food offerings being so secretive. If they were true leaders, they would have nothing to hide, right? I’m not saying Subway, Panera Bread and McDonalds are better than Chipotle or Moe’s – but you do have to hand it to them for willingly posting their ingredients for everyone to see.

When I emailed Chipotle asking for the ingredients in certain products they downright refused. They in turn asked if I was concerned about a specific ingredient or had an allergy. Really? Why do I have to be concerned about a specific ingredient or have an allergy to want to know what I am eating and what’s in my food? When I tried to call them, there was no way for me to leave a message or get a person on the phone to answer my questions. Email responses were S-L-O-W. I had to ask very specific questions to get the data I needed to write this – specific questions that most consumers would likely not ask. Thank goodness for the genuinely accommodating employee who shared some of the ingredients with me (behind his Manager’s back) so I could give you the full story.

Marketing From Chipotle's Website

I had to call the headquarters of Moe’s every single day for 8 days, visit 2 different Moe’s, and call 5 different locations in different states to finally get the full story. Moe’s company does not provide their stores with an ingredient list of what they are serving, only an allergy info guide. Since the stores throw out the labeled boxes as soon as the food packages comes in, you would have no hope in knowing exactly what you are eating unless you call the headquarters and badger them until they finally concede.

I can only assume Chipotle and Moe’s are betting that you’ll give up and continue to be acquiesced with their marketing messages that in many cases are misleading and in some cases inaccurate.  Now that you know what it took to get this information, let’s take a look at the results of the investigation.

Moe's Marketing Wheel - Gras Fed Steak

Both restaurants use cheap genetically modified (a.k.a. GMO) soybean oil to make most of their food. Over-consumption of this cheap oil is causing  an imbalance of Omega 6 fatty acids, which increases the risk of inflammation, heart disease, obesity, and prostate and bone cancer.

Chipotle and Moe’s both pride themselves that your meal can be “customized,” but when I asked if they could make my food without GMO oils, they couldn’t. The chicken, beef, rice, beans and the tortillas (flour, corn and soft) are all not customizable, so you have no choice but to consume GMOs if you order these items.
If you are a regular consumer of Chipotle and Moe’s because of their “local, organic and healthy” messages, you also need to be concerned about consuming GMOs. Here’s why:

  • Over 50 countries have significant restrictions or outright bans on GMOs, but here in the United States the FDA continues to not require safety standards or testing on GMOs. To date, there has been no long term study conducted for humans.
  • The Institute of Responsible Technology reported a study showing GMOs caused toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.
  • After consuming GMOs, your intestines basically turn into a breeding ground for pesticides (here’s a video explaining further). GMO soy and corn actually produce pesticides inside themselves. The plant becomes toxic inside so insects won’t eat it.
  • A study conducted and published in the Anatomical Record revealed that female rats fed GMO soy for 15 months showed significant health issues in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy.
  • A 2009 French Study concluded the key ingredient in GMO soy can kill the cells in the outer layer of the human placenta, the organ that connects the mother to her fetus, providing nutrients and oxygen and emptying waste products.
  • A Russian study conducted on hamsters that were fed GMO soy diets for two years over three generation found that by the third generation, most of the hamsters lost the ability to have babies, showed slower growth, and suffered a higher mortality rate.
  • Fertility issues in males were also observed when a study on male rabbits found a decrease in sexual activity and sperm concentration and an increase in dead or abnormal sperm when they were fed GM soy.
  • Please note – Since neither Chiptole’s or Moe’s carries 100% Organic USDA certified label meat, the animals were all likely raised with GMO feed, which does get transferred to us when we consume it.

I could really go on and on forever listing out the different studies about the potential health consequences and why you should be concerned about consuming GMOs. I would also like to note that you will likely encounter GMOs at any restaurant (or with any processed, packaged foods) unless it is 100% organic. If you want to learn even more – This PDF from the Institute of Responsible Technology is a great reference. And if you live in California – you must vote “Yes to Prop 37” this November to label GMOs. The outcome will likely affect all of us.
Chipotle vs. Moes - Ingredient ChartSo what else did I find? Here’s a closer look at some of my other discoveries:

  • Moe’s Grass-Fed Steak – This is where Moe’s really messes up. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say their “No MSG” label on their marketing is a big fat lie. They lace their prized grass-fed meat with 3 hidden sources of MSG – hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed corn and hydrolyzed yeast. The amount of MSG that restaurants can put in your food is not regulated. MSG is an excitotoxin that “if given in large enough doses” can excite brain cells to deathMSG can cause adverse reactions in some people including “skin rashes, itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, asthma, heart irregularities, depression and even seizures.”
  • Moe’s Ground Beef – Not organic, likely contains hormones and antibiotics, contains chemical preservatives and sweetened with corn syrup. I didn’t know ground beef needed to be sweetened, yuck.
  • Chipotle’s Pork Carnitas – The only meat available to be made without GMO soybean oil.
  • Chipotle’s & Moe’s Flour Tortillas – Made with enriched white flour and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (a.k.a. trans fat). “Previous trials have linked even a 40-calorie-per-day increase in trans fat intake to a 23% higher risk of heart disease.” 40 calories is a mere 2% of a typical 2000 calorie per day diet.  Trans fats can be deadly even in a small amount and as you can see will easily add up if you go over one serving size.
  • Chipotle’s Corn Tacos (soft or hard) – Contains preservatives and cellulose that’s made from wood pulp. Cellulose is used as filler to processed foods because it doesn’t contain calories or fat content and is cheap. Your body simply cannot use this ingredient at all nutritionally and lacks the enzymes to digest it. The thought of a company adding a cheap filler to my food to boost profits just doesn’t sit well with me, and tortillas are easily made without it.
  • Moe’s Whole Grain Tortilla – Contains many preservatives and colored with a potential carcinogen (caramel coloring) proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors, and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.
  • Chipotle’s Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa, Tomatoes and Cilantro – These are the only two guaranteed items at Chipotle that are GMO free.
  • Moe’s El Guapo Salsa – Also colored with questionable caramel coloring. WOW. Why did they add color to the salsa? Because Moe’s salsa is a highly processed product that is mainly tomato concentrate, not real chopped tomatoes.
  • Chipotle’s Cheese – Is now 100% antibiotic and growth hormone free – but only 65% pastured raised.
  • Moe’s Queso – Processed cheese product that is not from naturally raised animals. Contains propylene glycol, a petroleum based chemical food additive. It’s the same stuff you can find in antifreeze, and it has been reported that the following symptoms can arise after repeated small doses – throat irritation, headache, backache, and kidney problems.
  • Some Good News – Moe’s and Chipotle do not use microwaves nuking food to death or allowing it to sit out cold and be reheated again and again.

VERDICT: Clearly, based on the overly processed nature of Moe’s products, Chipotle is the lesser of two evils, especially if you just stick to a salad with guacamole and salsa. For me – I am tired of always having to choose between the lesser of two evils and it’s going to be hard to support or trust either establishment until they man up and post their ingredients.

If you are wondering how I’m going to satisfy my burrito craving until then, check out a ridiculously fast 100% organic, non-GMO, and additive free recipe here.


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24 responses to “Chipotle vs. Moe’s – What’s Really In That Food?

  1. I’m so bummed….I thought that Chipotles was one of the places that we could trust to eat out. I guess not. We eat most of our meals at home anyway, but it was nice to have an option incase we were out and about. I would think that if a company as big as this would demand better products to be available wholesale, that more places would follow. Supply and demand. 🙁

      1. I love that they have started looking at what their customers want and are demanding of them. I’d love to think that your investigation helped spur them to make the changes that they have. I was almost really bummed when I read the article and then I saw your comment and I was like ‘Yay, I can still love chipotle, my guilty pleasure!’ Thanks for all the information and your hard work!

  2. We have Izzo’s here in MS, and I checked their website, they don’t list ingredients either. This must be the standard for burrito places. When you click on “mexican rice” it lists the ingredients as “mexican rice.”

  3. I sent Moe’s a message a few months ago asking if the corn they used in the tortillas/chips was GMO (or not) … I never got a reply. Thanks for your perseverance!

  4. This is a no brainer when it comes to dining out, NEVER eat any chips, they are all fried in GMO oils and use GMO corn if they are corn chips. It is too costly for any restaurant to include 100% non-GMO chips at such low price point as with Chipotle.

  5. I thought Chipolte was awesome too, I know there is probably more sodium than I would care to admitt, but seemed mostly fresh and didn’t seem to give me the same headache bloating side effects that I got from other resturaunts. And their customer service was friendly. HOWEVER, I was so disappointed when outside of the building early morning a loading truck was parked with the McDonald’s logo on it! I can’t honestly say that they were delivering the same food stuff, but I would not expect a giant McDonald’s truck outside to be delivering anything good…:( We have since cut way back on any trips to Chipolte to say the least. Bummer. Really, we like to eat out occasionally and it would be nice to be able to do so affordably and safely..

  6. I love your blog however I’m confused about what the outcome of the Chipoltle thing is….
    are you claiming they use Gmo or did they devulge….? Not sure what to make of this article except confusing me more….:/ sorry. 🙂

  7. Why don’t we click on the highlighted orange “Food with Integrity” link to find out?

  8. I sent an e-mail to Moe’s inquiring about GMO’s in their food and received the following reply just a few days later:

    “Thank you for your email! Unfortunately, at this time, our soybean and corn products are not GMO-free, which affects the items we fry in our oil such as our chips and fried tortillas, as well as our corn pico and corn tortillas. We are working toward the goal of being GMO-free, but the quantities of corn and soy that we require aren’t yet available from non-GM sources. Thank you again for sharing your feedback.”

    Well, at least they were prompt, courteous and honest about the issue.
    This is as of May 2013.

  9. Forgive me for expressing my weariness here. I used to eat at Chipotle weekly thinking it was healthier… not. When I did my own research into their ingredients awhile back (perhaps as a result of ‘Food Babe’s’ work, I’m not sure), I learned that the ingredients were not as they originally claimed. Even the meat which they say is raised locally and veggies grown locally where possible, was a deception because of the gmo’s and oils. I was grieved.

    Suffice it to say, I confess I am weary of food companies lying through their teeth, making every effort to deceive Americans (and getting away with it) while other countries get better food. Sadly, because of the deception, Americans have no clue as to what is genuinely healthy and hence have grown apathetic because they have been taught to believe the so-called scientists and nutritionists hired by food companies which the traditional medical community has also bought into.

    I was thrilled to come across this blog and see someone who is actually fighting for what is right. Keep up the fabulous work! I too am working hard to educate those around me, including coop employees who I have found are also in the dark (a real wake-up call). Yikes! Bless you for your hard work!

    1. I should have clarified that I am pleased to see more Americans ARE waking up and taking a real interest in standing up and fighting for truth and healthy food. May we all keep working toward this end. Thank you.

  10. See

    As Food Babe mentions at the very top of this article, Chiptle does, in fact, now list all of their ingredients and while there are still items to avoid at all costs, they are not nearly the demons Food Babe presented earlier. Also, the company as a whole is revolutionizing the fast food industry with responsible methodologies.

    My two cents and suggestion to Food Babe, if you are going to hound them (which I appreciate) to change, then when they do, you should pull these posts as they are mis-leading.

    1. I agree 100%. Or at least make the date of your blog posts more prominent so your readers can see when you did your review. I work in web design so I’m used to spotting out the different places that blogging software puts the telltale date, but the average person won’t look beyond the top or bottom of the article. This was written August 14, 2012 – with all the recent announcements from Chipoltle about going non-GMO, I’m sure most of these concerns are now void – or will be very soon as they phase out the old ingredients from their stores.

  11. I appreciate this research. Ive eaten at Chiptoles once cuz they had anitbiotic free chicken. Now I know a little more about what i ate. I live in Boston and there are similar chains called Qdoba and Boloco which serve Mexican style food. I wonder if you might be able to cover these restaurants also. Boloco seems to have the best/cleanest food but id be happy to see what you could uncover.

  12. as a Chipotle employee I can confidently say Chipotle has recently made changes so all the food except for tortillas and soft beverages are now GMO free. Next month GMO free tortillas will roll out as well as chips.

  13. *wry tone* I’m allergic to rice, tomato, pork, and carrots—among a list of other things as long as my arm. But those alone would be enough to put me on the floor, fumbling through the vertigo to reach my antihistamine to restore my ability to properly. Oh, and the “pain” part would last for 2 DAYS.

    I avoid going out (to eat, I mean, but I also don’t go out much), but I have some other health things that mean sometimes I have to eat, ASAP. So sometimes I get stuck having to eat somewhere, and then I have to evaluate which of my allergies I can trigger, because the likelihood of me finding something that won’t at least make me itch is low.

    And I’m actually better than I used to be.

    But I’ve managed to get ingredient lists, sometimes when I try, by pulling out the “allergy!” card and overwhelming them with the list of what I react to. I stick to the truth, and that’s enough to freak people out. (The “You should live in a bubble!” joke isn’t nearly as funny or original as people seem to think. And it’s a risky joke to make, since some of us have had to break out of food deprivation and psychological abuse that destroyed our adrenal glands and caused the allergies.

  14. What is your take on Salsatrita’s? I eat their rice bowls all the time bc I easy dairy and gluten free!

  15. There is a little taco place in my hometown that makes fantastic chicken tacos. They are cooked in lard, but have fresh lettuce and tomatoes. I have eaten their tacos for most of my life. Besides those tacos and the Japanese food I ate and of course, the usual burgers, hot dogs (Pink’s) and pizza’s, could that be the reason for my 135 IQ?

  16. I realize this is an old post, but the study you cite about feeding GM soy to rabbits does no such thing. The study investigates the effect of pesticides on rabbits and makes no mention of soybeans. I think we can all agree that pesticides aren’t something you want to be exposed to, but it’s unfair and dishonest to deliberately lie to people who trust you.

  17. I came here looking for an ingredient list, was disappointed not to find that. “Made with enriched white flour and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (a.k.a. trans fat).” Vegetable oil? Really? Could you have been less specific? Vegetable oils come in all kinds and I have an allergic reaction to one of them. It would have been nice if you could have mentioned them.

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