What’s the Deal With Chipotle’s Meat?

The fast food chain committed to sustainability is considering serving meat from animals treated with antibiotics.

Photograph via Flickr user Mike Saechang.

For more than a decade, Chipotle has been known for its use of antibiotic-free meat and sustainable, fresh ingredients. That’s still the case, although a recent statement released by the Denver-based company has raised some eyebrows.

“Chipotle Mexican Grill, the largest restaurant seller of responsibly raised meat, has not changed its standards for responsibly raised beef,” the statement read. “The company is currently evaluating if this strict ‘never-ever’ antibiotic protocol is best for animals, or whether animals can be treated when necessary and allowed to remain in the herd.” 

Currently, Chipotle does use antibiotics to treat sick animals, but the animals must be removed from the restaurant’s supply. Founder Steve Ells said the company’s ranchers argue that animals should be allowed to be treated with antibiotics 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.”

Chipotle is known for its commitment to using fresh, sustainable ingredients and for its Food With Integrity vision. In June, it became the first fast food restaurant to voluntarily label all of the ingredients in its meals, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This year the chain also began offering vegan burritos with organic tofu, only available in California and the Pacific Northwest.

Ells also noted that at times Chipotle’s use of only antibiotic-free meat has caused a shortage in a small percentage of the restaurants. In those cases, customers are informed that the meat served at a location is conventionally grown.