Industry News - PM

Chipotle goes across the pond for pork; allows antibiotics use

By Rita Jane Gabbett on 7/13/2015

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which stopped serving carnitas temporarily after firing a U.S. pork supplier for not giving its hogs outdoor access, is now importing pork from Karro Food, based in the United Kingdom, to supply most of its Florida restaurants. 

When it comes to antibiotics use, however, Chipotle explained the new supplier does not adhere to the “never ever” standard it demands of its U.S. suppliers.  

In January, Chipotle suspended a U.S. supplier for not providing outdoor access to its hogs.

While Chipotle never identified the U.S. supplier it suspended, National Pork Board Vice President for Social Responsibility Jarrod Sutton knows that supplier and explained the incident to Meatingplace.

“In January of this year Chipotle suspended pork from one of its suppliers because the producer refused to cut a hole in the barn to allow the pigs the choice to go outside, into the single digits and snow, and a wind chill reaching 30 below,” said Sutton. “This particular farmer has been raising pigs for more than 30 years. Based on his experience, he knew what the pigs would choose to do: not go outside into the elements. Chipotle positioned this as a shortage of product, but in reality the farmer did not want to compromise the well-being of his animals by exposing them to harsh outside temperatures.”

In April, Chipotle announced it had found a new supplier, which it did not identify at the time.

Now the Chiptole website features a video showing a Karro Food farm with sows nursing piglets outdoors, then those hogs being raised in barns on deep beds of straw.    

“Because so little pork is raised outside of the conventional system in the United States, we ultimately needed to look abroad as well. After lots of travel and research, we eventually found an excellent supplier called Karro Food in the United Kingdom,” the company stated.  

Defends antibiotics use

Chipotle acknowledged that while Karro’s practices meet its animal welfare standards, their antibiotic use policy differs from the standard Chipotle demands of its U.S. suppliers.

While Chipotle prohibits antibiotics use — even to treat illness in hogs — for the pork they purchase from U.S. suppliers, they allow such antibiotics use by Karro.

In explaining this, Chipotle said Karro’s antibiotics use follows European standards that allow for antibiotics to be administered when necessary to keep an animal healthy.

“But this does not mean that antibiotics are present in the meat. All animals treated with antibiotics (both in Europe and the U.S.) must undergo a withdrawal period before they are slaughtered, which means that meat from a pig treated with antibiotics will not contain antibiotic residue, just like meat from an animal that was never given antibiotics,” Chipotle states on its website.

The company went on to explain the contradiction between standards for U.S. and U.K. suppliers like this:

“Our decision to source pork from this new supplier does not mean that Chipotle’s animal welfare protocols are changing at this time. While we prefer to buy pork raised entirely without antibiotics, we are proud to be serving pork from Karro because the responsible way Karro uses antibiotics is consistent with their extremely high animal welfare standards. Chipotle’s meat and dairy team are continually working to align our standards with the latest knowledge from farmers, researchers, and other experts we work with to ensure that we source ingredients raised responsibly.”

The U.S. supplier that Chipotle suspended in January raised the hogs he was supplying to the restaurant chain without antibiotics.

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