Many Chipotle restaurants, including the one on High Street near Ohio State’s campus, will no longer serve carnitas after the company suspended purchases from a local pork supplier when a routine audit found it did not meet Chipotle standards.
An audit in the food industry can find problems that range from the way animals are housed to the record-keeping of the supplier, said Steven Moeller, a professor in OSU’s Department of Animal Sciences who works closely with the swine industry.
“We have to be careful about speculating that it was anything to do with animal abuse,” Moeller said. “We sure need to be cognizant that similar to most of the animal industries, audits are in place to identify where deficiencies may occur, and they can occur in any situation.”
A Chipotle customer service consultant provided a statement about the shortage in an email to The Lantern.
“We have very high standards for all of the ingredients we serve and after a routine audit, we found a pork supplier that was not meeting our standards,” the statement said. “We have decided to suspend our purchases from this supplier. Unfortunately, without this supplier, we’re not able to get enough Responsibly Raised Meat to provide carnitas in all of our restaurants.”
The supplier who did not meet Chipotle’s standards was providing pork to about one-third of Chipotle’s restaurants, said Lauren McCane, an employee at the campus-area Chipotle and a fourth-year in English at OSU.
Chipotle currently operates more than 1,600 restaurants located in the United States and abroad, according to its website.
Chipotle is often recognized for its “food with integrity” initiative. According to a mission statement on its website, “food with integrity” involves “finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.”
The good thing about an audit, Moeller said, is that sometimes when suppliers do not pass an audit, they have the chance to correct whatever it was that was problematic, and sometimes, but not always, they have a chance to provide for the company again.
“(Chipotle has) taken a different approach than what is traditional,” Moeller said. “They have established guidelines that are unacceptable levels that maybe other entities will accept, but they don’t.”
McCane said she thinks “food with integrity” means being upfront with customers about what is going into their food and what they are eating.
“Everybody is passionate about what they do and the food that we serve,” McCane said. “Everybody wants it to be as good as it can possibly be.”
McCane said although some of her customers were originally disappointed with the shortage, none of them turned down a meal, and instead chose a different meat.
Erin Weishuhn, a fourth-year in environmental policy and decision making who frequents Chipotle, said she appreciates that Chipotle “puts high standards on where they get their food.”
“I think it’s good they’re sticking with what they said they would and (are) not pressured to keep selling it,” she said.
Micaela Taylor, a second-year in English, said her opinion about Chipotle has not changed in light of the pork shortage, and thinks that if the pork did not meet Chipotle’s standards, it is a good thing that the company chose not to serve it.
According to the emailed corporate statement, Chipotle does not know when the carnitas will return to all restaurants.
“At the moment, we’re looking for other options to replenish our pork supply. Replacing the supply we have lost may take a while, but it is important to us to maintain our high standards for pork,” the statement said. “We do not know how long it will take to fill this gap, but we will work very hard to get carnitas back into all of our restaurant as quickly as possible.”