Niman Ranch helps Chipotle out of pork poke

by Kimberlie Clyma
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ALAMEDA, Calif. – After Chipotle Mexican Grill found itself turning its carnitas customers away thanks to a reduction in fresh pork supply, Niman Ranch announced it will increase its supply of fresh pork to address the shortage.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc recently announced it would suspend pork sales at about one-third of its 1,700 US restaurants following a routine audit that revealed one of its suppliers was not complying with its animal-welfare standards. An inspection of the undisclosed supplier exposed some inconsistencies in the chain’s animal welfare protocol, communications director Chris Arnold told news outlets. Suppliers must raise pigs with access to the outdoors or in deeply bedded barns to improve their comfort. The standards also prohibit the use of antibiotics.

Niman Ranch, a longtime partner and supplier of humanely raised pork and beef to Chipotle, reinforced its commitment to the chain and will help fill the void created by the suspension of the other supplier.

“Steve Ells and Chipotle have been a wonderful partner to Niman Ranch for years,” Jeff Tripician, executive vice president of Niman Ranch told MEATPOULTRY.com. “They called us to ask if we could help with the supply issue and we told them we would help any way we could.”

Niman was able increase its supply of pork to Chipotle up to 20 percent immediately, Tripician explained. “When we harvest our animals we don’t typically sell 100 percent of our product – we have what's best described as a reserve that we can tap into. The reserve is saved for extra needs over the holidays and other supply issues such as this one.”

Chipotle has multiple fresh pork suppliers, Niman Ranch being the most notable for their commitment to humane animal care, sustainability and family farming.

Niman is working with Chipotle on what Tripician describes at a three-tiered response to this supply crisis. First, the company reached into its reserves and was able to ship extra supply within 48 hours. Niman is also working with Chipotle to see if there are any adjustments that could be made to its proprietary carnitas recipe that would allow for additional pork cuts to be used, allowing for increased supply to the restaurants. And finally, Tripician explained, “We are working with our family farmers on a long-term basis to help encourage them to grow more animals which will result in increased supply in the long run.”

Meanwhile, Arnold explained, Chipotle could resume its relationship with the suspended supplier, if they become compliant with the company’s standards.

Arnold also noted that only 6 percent to 7 percent of Chipotle customers order carnitas; chicken is the most popular meat on the menu.

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