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Chipotle suspends pork sales at hundreds of restaurants

Supplier failed to meet company’s animal welfare standards

Chipotle Mexican Grill temporarily suspended the sale of pork at hundreds of its restaurants this week after a supplier failed to meet the company’s animal welfare standards.

The Denver-based chain only serves its pork, carnitas, from animals raised humanely and without the use of antibiotics.

“This is fundamentally an animal welfare decision and is rooted in our unwillingness to compromise our standards where animal welfare is concerned,” said Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s spokesman, in a statement.

Arnold said the noncompliance was discovered after a routine audit of suppliers. Purchases from the supplier, which was not named, have been suspended, leaving some restaurants without pork. Arnold did not say how many restaurants were impacted, but reports indicate about one-third of the chain’s more than 1,700 U.S. locations were unable to serve carnitas.

In the past, when Chipotle has had trouble finding enough beef that met the brand’s standards, it had used conventionally raised beef as a substitute — though restaurants would post signs disclosing that information.

With pork, however, Arnold said it’s different.

“The standards for all of our responsibly raised meats are very high, but the differences in animal welfare are greatest with pork. Given these stark differences, serving pork from conventionally raised pigs is not an option to us,” he said.

Conventionally raised pigs general don’t have access to the outdoors, spend their lives in densely crowded buildings, live on hard slatted floors with no bedding and no ability to root, and they are given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, he said.

“We would rather not serve pork at all than serve pork from animals that are raised in this way,” he said.

Arnold said it’s not clear how long the shortage will last. The company is looking for new suppliers or additional pork from existing suppliers.

“Replacing the supply we have lost in these ways will take some time, but it is important to us to maintain our high standards for pork,” he said.

Chipotle has long led the industry in its commitment to responsibly raised ingredients, but a growing number of restaurant chains are putting animal welfare as a higher priority in their sourcing of meat and dairy.

Chains like Panera Bread, Noodles & Company, and Chick-fil-A have pledged to use meat raised humanely without the use of antibiotics. Cage-free eggs are now also widely used by many chains, and a growing number use milk from cows raised without growth hormones.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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