Chipotle vs. Moe’s – and the coconut oil campaign

Have any of you have been following the discussion over on Primal Toad about Moe’s Southwest Grill winning out over Chipotle for most primal friendly fast food?

There’s been some lively discussion over whether or not Moe’s Southwest Grill ( IS better than Chipotle ( as it’s come to light that although Moe’s (currently) serves grass-fed beef (YAY!) it is somehow mixed with soy and whey during processing. (EWW!)  There is a lot of pressure going on right now for EITHER chain to switch from rancid, GMO-laden veggie oils (like soy, canola, cottonseed, etc) to the extremely healthy coconut oil.

I must say, my preference is Chipotle. I’ve eaten at both places and Chipotle for me is the clear winner. Why? I’ll answer that below.

First, was I willing to consider Moe’s as the winner over Chipotle as best primal fast food? YES!  Especially after Primal Toad’s post!  In fact, because of that post, I was preparing to go to Moe’s for lunch, that is, until I checked out the allergy info on their website (I suggest you ALWAYS check allergy info on any restaurant you can, even if you don’t have an allergy- it will provide you with a lot more info than the nutrition list. Also, any ingredient lists are a MUST check!) and saw that there was soy and milk in the grass-fed beef.  I thought maybe this was a marinade issue, so I called my local Moe’s to find out if I could get the grass-fed beef without soy/milk. I was told that it was soy protein and whey IN the meat- added DURING PROCESSING. What the heck?? For the life of me, I can not figure out WHY you would take lovely, healthy grass-fed meat and do THAT to it.

Though all the meat at Chipotle is hormone and antibiotic free, (like that at Moe’s) it is not necessarily from grass-fed/pastured animals. We’ll get into this a little more in a minute, but for now, I’d still have to declare Chipotle the winner here, because of this whole soy-and-milk-in-the-meat debaucle over at Moe’s.

Like Chipotle, Moe’s doesn’t ADD MSG – which is fantastic! MSG is a potent neurotoxin and has no business being in our food supply. However, at Moe’s, in the chicken, steak, rice, black beans, enchilada soup and chili, there is, according to their allergy chart “HYDROLYZED PLANT PROTEINS AND/OR AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT”  which are sources of free (unbound) glutamate. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein contains very high levels of two excitotoxins (chemicals known to cause brain and nervous system damage) – aspartate and glutamate. These toxins are known to even cross the placental barrier and affect a fetus’ brain. So although MSG isn’t ADDED to the food, a fact that Moe’s practically shouts from the rooftops on their site, there is, nonetheless, MSG in those food items- again- the chicken, steak, rice, black beans, enchilada soup and chili.

From a Chipotle representative:
We do not use MSG or any MSG-related ingredients in our food or seasonings. We also do not use ingredients such as natural flavors/flavorings, autolyzed yeast extracts, and hydrolyzed proteins – or other things that are highly processed specifically to create free glutamates to enhance flavor.

So winner- Chipotle on the MSG issue, for sure. And shame on Moe’s for the greenwashing (healthwashing!)

Like, Chipotle, Moe’s also doesn’t use microwaves, which you know I am happy about. Both places supposedly cook quite a bit from scratch, though given the MSG issue at Moe’s, I’m assuming at least some of that food comes in cooked, prepared or otherwise processed. I’m happy to call this one a draw, though I’d like to credit Chipotle a little bit more with using more fresh ingredients and unprocessed foods…

Both places use soybean oil, which is completely disgusting. They both almost lose my business on that point. Why? Well, because first of all it’s a processed vegetable oil, like corn, cottonseed and canola. While I am not opposed to vegetables (obviously) I am opposed to these types of vegetable oil. Why?? Because processed vegetable oils are not a traditional food. They are not even SUPPOSED to be eaten. They are highly processed and refined, during which tons of damaging free radicals are created, as the oil is oxidized, or rancid (similar to rusting) and trans fats are sometimes created.  Read more about that here. In addition to that issue, soy has some other issues that make it undesirable.

So, given the soybean oil issue, why would I still eat at Chipotle? Because there is ONE ITEM, the pork carnitas, that does NOT contain soybean oil at Chipotle. At Moe’s, all the meats contain soy (either soybean oil OR soy protein isolate- which arguably could be worse) except for the fish- but the fish contains Yellow #5. (As does the veggies (?), tomatillo salsa, tofu and southwest vinaigrette) Um, gross.

Are there other deciding factors to my picking Chipotle as the clear winner here? Yes. One is atmosphere. Chipotle typically has a nicer atmosphere, with generally good music and simple, clean, pleasing decor. Moe’s has a decidedly unique atmosphere (brighter for one) and everyone yells “Welcome to Moe’s” at you when you walk in the door. At first, you might think this is fun, but if you eat in the restaurant, after hearing it about 20 times, it’s no longer fun. I promise.

Also, there is the matter of the dish the food is served in. I only order bowls, as I’m gluten free, and the bowls at Chipotle are not plastic. I try to avoid plastic, especially with hot items, for reasons I outlined in this article. The bowl at Moe’s is plastic, though I can’t say which number it is (I have only eaten there twice in my life).

Additionally, as I mentioned, I am gluten-free. At Chipotle I certainly have more gluten-free options, as the chips and corn tortillas are gluten free. At Moe’s? According to the allergy chart, there is wheat/gluten in the corn chips and corn taco shells. Whether this is from manufacturing or from fryer contamination is not clear. Now, do I recommend eating any of these items at either place, regardless of their gluten status? NO.  Carbs aside, the chips and taco shells are fried in soybean oil (ugh!) and the corn tortillas at Chipotle unfortunately contain preservatives. Also, I don’t believe either place states that their corn is organic or guaranteed GMO-Free. The majority of corn in the US is genetically modified, so it stands to reason that if it doesn’t say it’s non-GMO, then it probably is.

So what do I order? At Chipotle, I get a bowl with shredded lettuce, pork carnitas (the only soy free option), fresh tomato salsa and guacamole. I either take my own raw milk cheddar cheese or skip the dairy altogether. This option is the very best fast food option I’ve found and though I know I’m compromising some on the quality of the meat (it’s NOT organic, and NOT pastured- and the pigs, though hormone and antibiotic free, and eating a cleaner diet than their feedlot counterparts, don’t eat organic feed, so you know it has some GMOs) it’s a once in a while meal while we are on the go.

I mentioned above that there is a huge call for either chain to switch to coconut oil. Coconut oil is a healthy addition to the diet, with benefits touted for everything from weight control to heart disease prevention, from antimicrobial/antiviral properties to improved digestion and fatty acid status. Provided that the switch is to a clean, pure coconut oil and NOT a hydrogenated or processed variety, this would be an extremely beneficial move for either restaurant.

Would it influence my decision to eat at Chipotle? You bet! And I’d be telling all my clients to go there too (when eating out). Please contact Chipotle via their website and request the switch! Let them know that you’d eat there more often and that you know others who would too!

What about Moe’s? While it helps (a lot) that the fat would be much better, I can’t recommend in good conscience eating anything with MSG (or it’s hidden sources), Yellow #5 or unfermented soy. Get that junk out of the food, and then I might reconsider my choice. Clean food, grassfed meats and healthy fats? Yeah…I’d tolerate the “Welcome to Moe’s” yelling a lot more readily then.

Disclaimer: Please remember that all information contained in our podcast, posts, on our website and in any and all materials is for information purposes only and not a substitute for medical advice. This information has not evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition.
Affiliate Links: Our posts and website may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something by clicking on the link, we may receive a small commission from the retailer, at no cost to you whatsoever. Real Food Whole Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This helps support our blogging activities and keeps us able to provide free content for you. Thanks for your support!