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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Chipotle Says 'No' to Pork After Supply Chain Violations


Chipotle Mexican Grill is serious about upholding its Food With Integrity program. It’s so serious about it that the Mexican food chain suspended a pork supplier for violating the company’s standards, the Associated Press reports.

As a result, Chipotle stopped serving pork at hundreds of its restaurants. It’s the first time the company has had to stop serving an ingredient.

Chipotle found out about the supplier’s violations through a routine audit, and most had to do with how the pigs are housed. Chipotle requires its pork suppliers to house pigs humanely and not in cramped pens. The company’s website states that it has sourced 100 percent of its pork from producers who follow its guidelines.

When it comes to beef that doesn’t meet its “responsibly raised” standards, Chipotle has posted signs in a restaurant stating that the beef has been “conventionally raised.” "In this case, we won't make that kind of substitution," Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told the AP.

This time around some restaurants, including locations in New York City, have signs posted that state, “Sorry, no carnitas.” Hundreds of restaurants, totaling about a third of the chain's total base, have had to stop serving pork, the AP reports.

Fortunately for store operators, pork only accounts for about 6 to 7 percent of Chipotle’s entree orders. Arnold said he hopes the supplier will remedy the problems and be “back on board” eventually.

Sow gestation crates are cruel confinement systems

There's a reason why Chipotle is so serious about keeping its pork supply chain free of confinement systems. Many breeding pigs in the U.S. are kept in sow gestation crates for nearly their whole lives. The crates are about 2 feet wide, leaving pigs with no room to turn around or take more than one step. The Humane Society of the U.S. states that “due to the duration and severity of their confinement, these pigs' suffering is among the worst of all factory-farmed animals.”

Farm Sanctuary details the effects gestation crates have on the health of pigs. The floors of gestation crates are typically made of slats that allow manure to fall through, so sows live above their own waste. That exposes them to high levels of ammonia, making respiratory disease common. Standing on the floors of a gestation crate, which are hard and unnatural, causes harm to sows’ feet, including foot injuries and damage to joints.

"We've got to treat animals right, and gestation stalls have got to go,” said Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned animal welfare scientist. "Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life."

Companies are phasing gestation crates out of their supply chains

Over the past few years, several top companies have announced commitments to phase out gestation crates, including fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Arby’s.

Pork suppliers like Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, and Hormel Foods, the maker of Spam, both announced that their company-owned facilities will be gestation-crate free by 2017. The pork producer Cargill has already phased around 50 percent of the gestation crates out of its operations.

Image credit: Thomas Hawk

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman