The field of ethical meat consumption is a complicated (and arguably oxymoronic) one, but that hasn’t stopped some retailers from working to ensure that the meat products they serve come from animals who are humanely treated. Chipotle is among these retailers, and after finding that pork for over a third of their 1700 locations came from pigs who are farmed in poor conditions, the restaurant chain has pulled carnitas from the menu.
Chipotle holds their suppliers to particular standards so that animals may qualify as “responsibly” and “naturally” raised. In the case of pigs, the animals must have access to the outdoors and live in deeply bedded barns, and be fed a vegetarian diet that does not include any antibiotics or hormones.
A regular audit found one supplier in violation of these standards, largely in terms of how the animals are housed. Factory-farmed pigs, according to the ASPCA, are kept in “windowless sheds without fresh air, sunlight or outdoor access. Their pens are too small and crowded for adequate movement and exercise. Ammonia fumes rise to dangerous, uncomfortable levels due to the pigs’ waste.” This is how the majority of the 100 million pigs raised in the U.S. each year live.
But not for Chipotle’s carnitas. With one supplier in violation, the chain has withdrawn pork from the menus at a third of its locations, and there’s no word on when it’ll make it back onto the menu. This is unusual, even for Chipotle. When “responsibly raised” beef, for instance, is not available, the chain will note that they are serving “conventionally raised” beef. But for pigs the gulf between ‘responsible’ and ‘conventional’ is simply too great—speaking to ABC News, a spokesperson explained: “Given these stark differences, serving pork from conventionally raised pigs is not an option to us.”
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