Patrons of Chipotle restaurants know that when they order a dish made with beef, chicken or pork, the meat will come from animals that have never been given antibiotics or added hormones. The reality of the situation, however, is that demand for responsibly raised poultry and livestock is on the rise and there is only so much of it to go around. It's this very situation that has resulted in a mini maelstrom for Chipotle when its spokesperson said the chain was considering using cattle that had been treated with antibiotics due to illness. The chain's current policy requires any cattle given antibiotics be removed from its supply.
"We are always looking to improve our protocols in order to ensure that we are buying the very best sustainably raised ingredients," said Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO, in a statement. "Many experts, including some of our ranchers, believe that animals should be allowed to be treated if they are ill and remain in the herd. We are certainly willing to consider this change, but we are continuing to evaluate what's best for our customers, our suppliers and the animals."
Keeve Nachman, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, told USA Today, that the use of antibiotics in food production is "rampant," but limiting it to treating sick animals under the care of veterinarians makes "good sense."
Chipotle said that it occasionally is affected by shortages of responsibly raised beef, chicken and pork. The shortages typically only last a few weeks and affect a small percentage of its locations. When shortages occur, the company posts notices so consumers are aware of what is going on.
How important is to the chain's performance is Chipotle's purity on the responsibly raised meat issue?