I must preface this article with full disclosure: I'm a bit biased as far as Chipotle goes. My husband works for the company, and I am a huge supporter of theirs for that and many other reasons. So my husband let me know that some Chipotle stores would soon run out of carnitas, and we had a conversation about it at home.
"Well, some of us are going to run out of carnitas this week," he announced. "It's a big deal."
"Really?" I asked. "Can't you just order more?"
Big went on to explain that they had to suspend one of their pork suppliers because they were no longer treating their pigs humanely. Chipotle's tag line is "Food With Integrity," and they mean it. The supplier in question was violating Chipotle's standards, something they learned this past Friday. About one third of Chipotle's stores are affected, and they aren't sure how long they'll be without. Most of the violations of Chipotle's standards are related to the housing of the pigs. Chipotle requires its suppliers to raise the animals they use humanely, and, in particular, the pigs must be raised outside of cramped pens with access to the outdoors. Most of the pork used for food in this country is not raised this way, but instead of lowering their standards, Chipotle made the bold and brave decision to act with integrity as they advertise.
In the past, Chipotle has occasionally notified their customers through signage that they may be serving beef that does not meet their "responsibly raised" standards. The company periodically has a difficult time obtaining large supplies of beef that are raised free of artificial hormones or antibiotics. The great thing is that they let their customers know when they have to substitute "conventionally raised" beef. Pretty amazing when you think about how often we dine in restaurants and have no idea where our meat or other food is coming from.
In the case of carnitas, Chipotle has refused to make a substitution. Candice Choi of the Associated press relayed that "Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for The Humane Society of the United States, said that most breeding pigs in the country are kept in gestation crates with concrete floors. Pigs that are raised with access to the outdoors or bedding represent a 'very small portion of the pork industry.'"
So what's behind Chipotle's philosophy of providing "Food With Integrity?" It's something our family is very proud to be a part of. Their web site states that "Food With Integrity is our commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers." And if you want the inside uncensored scoop? It's TRUE. 100%. I have the privilege of knowing through my husband and his colleagues just how high Chipotle's standards are. Chipotle elaborates:
It means serving the very best sustainable raised food possible with an eye to great nutrition and great value.
It means that we support and sustain family farmers who respect the land and the animals in their care.
It means that whenever possible we use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones.
And it means that we source organic and local produce when practical. And that we use dairy from cows raised without the use of synthetic hormones.
Food With Integrity is a journey that started more than a decade ago and one that will never end.
So what does "naturally raised" mean, when it comes to pigs and other animals? Chipotle provides a clear definition: "naturally raised animals are raised in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, never given hormones, and are allowed to display their natural tendencies." Since 2001, Chipotle has sourced all of their pork from producers who follow these guidelines.
And the "conventionally raised" pork that is the standard of the food industry? What's that all about? Chipotle explains:
Many pigs are raised on factory farms and kept in small pens that do not allow for freedom of movement, limiting their ability to express natural behaviors. These pigs are given large amounts of sub therapeutic antibiotics to keep them from getting sick and enhance growth. According the the Union of Concerned Scientists, American pork producers use over 10 million pounds of antibiotics per year to keep their confinement-raised pigs from getting sick. That's more than three times the estimated amount used to treat all human illness.
Yes, you heard that correctly.
In summary, know where your food comes from. If you eat meat, know how the animals you are consuming have lived. And aspire to have the kind of integrity in your choices that Chipotle does.
And please watch this video. I've seen it more times than I know, and it still makes me cry every time.