Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

Chipotle Tries Pork from Pigs Who Lived High on the Hog

Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO),1299,DRMN_4_801682,00.h...
Published August 27, 2001

Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO) | August 15, 2001 | Rachel Brand, News Staff Writer

First, free-range chicken appeared in organic food stores and expensive restaurants.

Now comes free-range pork, which could gain wide exposure by appearing on the menu of national quick-serve operator Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Chipotle, based in Denver, recently introduced gourmet pork in its 155 restaurants across the country in a bid to improve ingredient quality - and taste.

And even though free-range pork-based tacos and burritos cost more, customers are eating them up, said Chipotle founder Steve Ells.

Free-range pigs "are not fed antibiotics. They are allowed to do what comes instinctually," said Ells. "They're out in fields; they're running around.

"Ultimately what it does for the customer is provide better-tasting pork."

Chipotle's supplier, Oakland, Calif.-based Niman Ranch, has marketed free-range pork for more than 25 years.

Niman's clients include Chicago's Charlie Trotter's Restaurant and Denver's Potager.

Niman's hogs are raised on small family farms in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. The hogs eat only soy, corn and alfalfa and aren't fed growth hormones.

But the key to the flavor has to do with living outdoors.

Often, hogs grow up in temperature-controlled indoor pens. As a result, their flesh is lean but lacks flavor, founder Bill Niman explained.

To survive harsh Midwestern winters, Niman's pasture-raised hogs grow a layer of fat along their backs to stay warm, he said.

"There is a direct correlation between back fat and eating quality," he said. "It has to taste good."

"It tastes better, has more flavor, is juicier," said Teri Basoli, owner of Potager restaurant, at 1109 Ogden St.

As a result of supplying 16,000 pounds of pork to Chipotle each week, Niman Ranch has been able to increase the number of family farms it contracts with to 150 from 70. Within five years, Niman projects he'll work with 300 farms as Chipotle adds restaurants.

Chipotle slow-cooks the pork - mainly leg cuts - in juniper and bay leaves. The concoction becomes carnitas, a flavorful shredded meat.

"To achieve the same margins on a burrito, we had to raise the price a dollar," said founder Ells.

But, despite the added cost, Ells said the chain sells two and a half times as many carnitas.