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PETA presses Chipotle to rethink its chicken policy

DENVER People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is pressing Chipotle Mexican Grill, a chain that promotes its use of natural and organic ingredients, to switch to suppliers that use a PETA-favored method of slaughtering chickens.

The animal-welfare advocacy group, which owns 65 shares of Chipotle stock, submitted a shareholder resolution that encourages the 600-unit chain to purchase chickens from companies that use controlled-atmosphere killing. Many advocacy groups view that method of slaughter as being more humane than conventional techniques.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said that while the chain patronizes suppliers that adhere to standards set by the Animal Welfare Institute, there were not enough suppliers that use the PETA-recommended slaughter method to supply enough chicken for its restaurants.

"Chipotle serves more humanely raised, naturally raised meat than any other restaurant company, about 40 million pounds in 2007," Arnold said. "We are encouraging our suppliers to investigate CAK and incorporating it into their protocols, and some are considering making that change."

The burrito chain long has served meat from animals fed a vegetarian diet and raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. This fall the chain also began a switch to milk from dairies that do not treat their cows with hormones to boost production.

In a statement released Wednesday, PETA acknowledged Chipotle’s emphasis on animal-friendly polices. But it asserted that the brand has yet to catch up with such chains as Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s and Wendy’s, which now give preference to chicken suppliers that use controlled-atmosphere killing.

In that method, chickens slowly breathe in gasses that make them unconscious before they are killed, said PETA spokesman Matt Prescott.

According to PETA, chickens killed for Chipotle are electrocuted before their throats are slit.

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