carnitas is back

Between January and November of 2015, some Chipotle restaurants were unable to serve carnitas due to a pork shortage. This shortage occurred because our animal welfare auditors found one of our suppliers to be violating some of Chipotle’s core animal welfare standards, and we suspended all purchases from this supplier. This meant we were unable to supply about one-third of our restaurants with carnitas. 

Unfortunately, finding a new supply to replace the pork from the suspended supplier was not easy. There are very few farmers who raise animals in a way that meets our requirements—this is especially true when it comes to pigs. In the United States, around 95% of pigs are raised “conventionally.” Raising pigs in this conventional system can be particularly brutal for the animals. They are raised indoors, in densely crowded conditions with little or no bedding. Most live on slatted metal floors that allow their waste to collect beneath them in liquefied pools. Mother pigs are often kept for months at a time in metal crates so tiny that they cannot turn around. 

When faced with a choice between serving conventional pork in some of our restaurants or nothing at all, we chose to not serve carnitas at all. 


Committed to finding a new source of pork that we would be proud to serve, we investigated many possible options. But 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 two excellent suppliers in the United Kingdom: Karro Food and Tulip. When our meat buyers and animal welfare team toured their farms, they were excited about the quality of the meat Karro and Tulip are producing, and the ways in which their farming practices emphasize what’s best for the animal above all else. We are now serving carnitas made with pork from Karro in most of our Florida restaurants. The video below shows how Karro raises pigs.

While Karro's and Tulip's practices meet or exceed all of our animal welfare standards, their antibiotic use policies differs from Chipotle’s in one important way. While the Responsibly Raised pork we buy from U.S. farmers comes from pigs that were never given antibiotics, our UK-based partners follow European standards that allow for antibiotics to be administered when necessary to keep an animal healthy. They do not give pigs non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for growth promotion. As a result, some of the pork we purchase from the UK comes from animals that were treated with antibiotics under veterinary supervision. 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.
Our decision to source pork from these new suppliers 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 and Tulip because the responsible way they use 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.


Compare Conventional Pork to Chipotle’s Pork



Q: Why did Chipotle face a shortage of carnitas?

A: We regularly audit our suppliers to ensure that they meet all of our high standards. As part of our ongoing audit program, we found a pork supplier that was not meeting all of our standards. While the supplier in question was meeting most of our standards, some of their practices related to the size and condition of the housing offered to some of the pigs were not in line with our protocols. As soon as we identified these issues, we suspended our purchases from this supplier. Without this supplier, we did not have enough Responsibly Raised pork for all of our restaurants, and were not be able to serve carnitas in some restaurants.

Q: In the past, when you have run into supply issues with Responsibly Raised steak and chicken, you have temporarily switched to conventionally raised sources of those meats. Why not do the same with pork?

A: "Conventionally raised" refers to the way most animals raised for meat are raised in this country. Animals raised conventionally may have been given non-therapeutic antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones to promote growth and often live in more crowded and less humane conditions. When it comes to chicken and beef, the differences in standards between conventional and our Responsibly Raised brand ingredients are significant, but not so great that we would not consider serving the conventional version. When it comes to pork, however, the differences in animal welfare are much greater, and buying pork raised conventionally is simply not an option we are willing to consider. 

While we know that many of our customers enjoy our carnitas, we would prefer not to serve pork at all, than serve pork from animals raised in the confinement conditions associated with conventionally raised pigs.

Q: What are your pork standards?

A: Our Responsibly Raised pork comes from pigs that are raised with outdoor access or in deeply bedded pens, free of breeding, gestation, and farrowing crates. Conventionally raised pigs generally do not 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.

Q: Will you face shortages of other meats?

A: As Chipotle has grown, our demand for Responsibly Raised meats has at times outpaced the existing supply, as demonstrated by the shortage we are currently facing with pork. We may periodically face shortages of other Responsibly Raised meats, and will always inform customers of any shortage with clear signage at the point of purchase. In the case of recent shortages of Responsibly Raised beef, some of our restaurants served conventionally raised beef.

Our Supply Chain team is working hard to grow our supply of Responsibly Raised meats in order to prevent shortages such as this one.

Q: Where can I go if I have additional questions?

A: If you have any other questions about our carnitas shortage, please contact Chipotle’s Customer Service team.