Chipotle is putting its money where its mouth is in regards to animal welfare.
On Tuesday, the burrito chain announced it has temporarily stopped serving pork at about a third of its more than 1,700 restaurants after finding a supplier had failed to meet its animal-welfare standards.
Chipotle is well-known for its emphasis on "responsibly raised meat," especially pork, requiring pigs to be raised with outdoor access or in deeply bedded pens, and without the use of antibiotics – a much higher standard than that used by most of the industry.
"This is fundamentally an animal welfare decision, and is rooted in our unwillingness to compromise our standards where animal welfare is concerned," said Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold.
Chipotle is currently exploring options to bring carnitas back to all Chipotle locations, including finding new suppliers, using additional cuts of pork and growing the supply from existing suppliers.
Notably separating this case from supplier scandals at companies such as McDonald's or Domino's is the fact that Chipotle discovered the failure to meet company standards as a result of a routine audit. Instead of an outside journalist or activist busting a supplier for inhumane animal treatment or unhygienic practices, Chipotle's auditing process dismantled a potential PR nightmare.
For Chipotle, a supplier failing to live up to animal-welfare standards would result in some seriously negative press, as the chain has built its image on being a more sustainable and good-for-you quick service option. Even if the supplier violations were nowhere near as gruesome as customers finding a tooth in their French fries, when your reputation is built on distinguishing yourself from traditional fast food chains, you can't afford to have customers questioning your credibility.