Why Chipotle Is Running Out Of One Of Our Favorite Things

Photo: REX USA.
Chipotle is running out of one its most delicious offerings, the carnitas. And, while that's bad news for your lunch, it's actually pretty awesome.

The burrito chain has been struggling to maintain its pork supply for months now, and a spokesman for the chain has said that it’s unclear when the meat options will be fully restocked. “We don’t know for sure when we’ll be fully supplied again,” Chris Arnold told Bloomberg on behalf of the company. “For many years, we’ve been operating in a system where the primary food supply doesn’t meet our standards.”

Translation? This isn’t a McDonald's McRib situation when the demand is so high that restaurants are running out of a particular ingredients — quite the opposite, actually. Chipotle has built its business on serving up high-quality ingredients (at least compared to other fast food chains): They buy pork from farmers who raise pigs “naturally.” These little piggies are fed a vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics, and cared for in a way that allows them to lead “happier, healthier lives,” according to the company’s website. 

In January, Chipotle dropped a supplier who didn’t live up to its animal welfare standards, sparking the carnitas crisis. Finding a replacement vendor has clearly proven to be difficult, in no small part because finding a farmer willing to accept Chipotle’s terms is tricky. According to Iowa farmer Chuck Wirtz, raising Chipotle-approved pigs takes four times as long, and building a barn to house them can cost twice as much money — and it’s not always worth it. “There are added costs to raising pigs that way,” Wirtz told Bloomberg. “And up until recently, the market has not been willing to pay for that.”

Pork isn’t the only item missing from Chipotle menus across America: In the past, there have been worries about guacamole or salsa shortages — though a Chipotle rep assures us that they've never actually run out.

But, it’s worth considering for a moment that this is actually a positive thing: The company is remaining committed to serving only the ingredients that meet the mark. So, while you're waiting for the carnitas situation to get sorted out, go ahead ahead and try the chicken tacos instead — and keep a tastebud out for the underlying flavor of ethical sourcing. When you're paying attention, it's delicious.
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