Chipotle is considering the use of conventionally raised beef to keep up with burrito demand.
Desperate times for call desperate measures. At least that’s apparently what Chipotle is saying with the burrito chain’s move to use “antibiotic-treated” beef in its menu. To the rest of us, that translates into “conventionally raised” beef.
I’ve refused to eat at Chipotle for years now because I disagree with the way it advertises its all-natural, antibiotic-free meats. Instead of promoting an idea that fits a certain market segment, Chipotle prefers to smear perfectly safe product and use fear to sell burritos. Remember that ugly campaign they ran awhile back featuring Willie Nelson?
My one and only Chipotle-eating experience left a bitter taste in my mouth upon noticing a Chipotle coloring page for kids that featured a cartoon pig with a big syringe injecting it in the butt. Despite all that previous talk, however, the hip fast-food Mexican restaurant now seems to be eating a little crow by contemplating the use of conventionally raised beef – for the sake of dollars – in its product. So much for the chain’s lofty principles.
According to Bloomberg Business Week, “After years of touting naturally raised meat, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is considering changing its standards to allow beef treated with antibiotics into its restaurants amid a supply shortage. The burrito seller is evaluating using meat from cattle treated with antibiotics because of an illness, which currently isn’t permitted to be sold in its restaurants, Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Denver-based Chipotle, said in an e-mail. The company still wouldn’t use beef from animals that had been given antibiotics to prevent disease and promote weight gain, he said.
“The possible change in Chipotle’s practices comes as U.S. beef production is projected to plunge to a 21-year low next year, threatening higher costs and making it tougher for the restaurant chain to get enough meat to fill customers’ burritos," the article continues. "While Arnold said the motivation for the potential change wouldn’t be to increase its supply of steak, Chipotle hasn’t been able to get enough naturally raised beef to meet customer demand. This year, about 80-85% of the beef sold at Chipotle’s more than 1,500 stores has been naturally raised, compared with almost 100% last year, Arnold said."
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Chipotle is rationalizing its possible policy change by claiming that it’s now okay to use antibiotics to treat illness, but it’s not okay to use “copious amounts” of antibiotics to promote better health and weight gain in livestock. Yes, I can tell the difference between the two policies, but I would disagree that the livestock industry uses "copious amounts" of antibiotics. It’s a misconception that particularly annoys me when I consider the use of antibiotics in humans vs. livestock production.
According to Common Ground, “People and their pets use 10 times more antibiotics than our nation’s livestock.”
In addition to Common Ground, which answers many questions about antibiotics here, Meat Myth Crushers also tackles some concerns consumers have about livestock production and antibiotic use, which you can reference here.
What do you think about Chipotle’s potential switch in policy? Does it offer more opportunity for ranchers to meet the needs of this restaurant chain? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.