Dude, They Found Your Carnitas: Chipotle Solves Its Pork Crisis

Thanks to Niman Ranch’s emergency supply of humanely raised hogs, the meat will be returning to your burrito shortly.

(Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons)

Jan 16, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

After Chipotle pulled its shredded pork from more than 500 locations because of one supplier’s poor animal welfare standards, Niman Ranch, a longtime Chipotle supplier, stepped up to fill the porcine gap.

The company was able to immediately increase its supply of pork to Chipotle by as much as 20 percent, Jeff Tripician, executive vice president of Niman Ranch, explained to Meat & Poultry on Thursday. “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.”

If Chipotle’s suspended supplier—which the restaurant did not name—improves its living conditions for pigs, then it will be reintroduced into the supply chain. But just in case that doesn’t happen, Niman is working on a long-term solution to provide Chipotle with additional pork.

The ranch oversees a network of more than 700 hog farmers—who are required to ensure that the animals are fed a vegetarian diet, kept in roomy pens, and given ample access to the outdoors—and it wants to ramp up production. “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,” Tripician explained.

The recovery plan might also mean changing the carnitas recipe to take advantage of alternative cuts of pork. Representatives from Niman are working with Chipotle CEO Steve Ells to see if the proprietary carnitas recipe can be changed to use more of the pig.

Pork belly carnitas, anyone?