Lee McCracken’s blog brings to my attention a story I missed in the Washington Post a few days back: burrito chain Chipotle has started using pork from Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in its Charlottesville restaurant. It’s an interesting experiment in a fast-growing national chain thinking locally and working with a small, organic farm. Salatin is fairly famous as far as small, organic farms go: he was featured prominently in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.

The Post piece details the difficulties of integrating locally-sourced food into a corporate supply chain, a process made considerably more complicated by federal regulations. Chipotle wanted to buy chicken from Salatin, too, but “the birds would have to be trucked to a federally inspected slaughterhouse,” according to the Post. So that was nixed. (Salatin has been battling the feds’ onerous demands on small farmers — that’s one reason he supported Ron Paul during the Republican primaries.) Sourcing locally is a new development, but apparently Chipotle has been trying for a while to use meat from naturally-raised animals:

Chipotle now has several pork suppliers and can brag that all the meat for its carnitas is naturally raised; the pigs live on pasture and are never given antibiotics or feed with animal byproducts. If supply can meet its growing demand — this year Chipotle plans to open 125 restaurants and expects to continue double-digit sales growth at current outlets — the company soon will serve only naturally raised chicken and beef, too. Fifteen percent of the 375 tons of black beans it served in 2006 were organic; that’s as much as the company could get its hands on.

Good for them. Matthew Scully reported on the horrors of factory farming for TAC a few years back. And if things Crunchy Con are to your taste, there’s a fascinating piece in the current Harper‘s on the “raw milk underground.” (Subscribers only, unfortunately.) That goes further than my own interest in such things, but it’s good to know that even living in the urban Arlington, Virginia there’s at least a little non-factory meat readily available. Though I’m also partial to Chipotle just now because I recently won a free burrito, so take your naturally-raised pork with a grain of salt, if you like…