Still calling itself the largest restaurant seller of responsibly raised meat, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill insists it has not changed its standards for responsibly raised beef, chicken and pork. The goal is that these products continue to come from animals that are never given antibiotics or added hormones.

“We decided to start serving meat from animals that have never been given antibiotics or added hormones more than a decade ago,” says Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO. “And we continue to be committed to the elimination of antibiotics that are used to promote growth in livestock being raised in confinement operations.”

While the company has considered new protocols, including one that would allow animals to be treated with antibiotics only when necessary for their continued health, that protocol has not been implemented.

At this time, Chipotle’s protocol allows the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals, but those animals must be removed from Chipotle’s supply.

However, the company is currently evaluating if this strict “never-ever” antibiotic protocol is best for the animals, or whether animals can be treated when necessary and allowed to remain in the herd.

“We are always looking to improve our protocols in order to ensure that we are buying the very best sustainably raised ingredients,” Ells says. “Many experts, including some of our ranchers, believe that animals should be allowed to be treated if they are ill and remain in the herd. We are certainly willing to consider this change, but we are continuing to evaluate what’s best for our customers, our suppliers and the animals.”

Last year, Chipotle served more than 120 million pounds of responsibly raised beef, pork and chicken. The company does occasionally experience shortages of responsibly raised meats. These shortages can last a few weeks, and impact a small percentage of its restaurants at a given time. During these shortages, the company posts notices so customers are aware of the change.

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