Chipotle Guacamole Warning: Climate Change Affecting Avocado Availability

Image: Chipotle Guacamole Warning: Climate Change Affecting Avocado Availability

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2014 11:11 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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Fresh-Mex food chain Chipotle has issued a guacamole warning, saying the restaurants may stop serving the dip due to avocado prices increasing as climate change affects availability.

Guacamole and avocados are big business for Chipotle. The company uses 97,000 pounds of avocados per day, according to ThinkProgress.com. It takes as many as 70 avocados to create one batch of guacamole, which the company charges extra for on the side.

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Chipotle is also concerned about the rising costs of chicken, beef, cheese, beans, rice, tomatoes and pork. 

"In the event of cost increases with respect to one or more of our raw ingredients, we may choose to temporarily suspend serving menu items, such as guacamole or one or more of our salsas, rather than paying the increased cost for the ingredients," Chipotle said in its annual report. "Any such changes to our available menu may negatively impact our restaurant traffic and comparable restaurant sales, and could also have an adverse impact on our brand."

University of California avocado expert Gary Bender told NPR last year that avocados are shrinking in size, and there are several reasons. 

Bender, a San Diego County farm adviser, said that avocados were stunted in 2012 due to an abundance of fruit on each tree that usually fall off but didn't. There were also low rainfall totals, cool temperatures, and sluggish photosynthesizing, which led to avocados' reduced size.

Over the course of his 29-year career, Bender said he has never seen avocados as small as he did in 2012.

California, which has been facing severe droughts, is the country's premiere source for avocados. 

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory projected in a 2006 study that California's agriculture production could decline by as much as 40 percent by the middle of the century because of global climate change.

Chipotle offers what it calls "Food with Integrity," which means it tries to serve "the very best sustainably raised food" from farmers and providers who raise animals without the use of antibiotics or hormones, per its website.

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