Chipotle reviews beef antibiotic policy due to meat shortages following current standards

DENVER - Chipotle Mexican Grill says it's reviewing a change to start using some beef that's been treated with antibiotics, but said no decision has yet been made on the matter.

The Denver-based chain stressed in a news release Tuesday that its beef, chicken and pork continues to come from animals that are not given antibiotics or added hormones whenever possible. But it said it's considering allowing meat that comes from animals that have been given antibiotics to treat illnesses, KMGH-TV reported.

"We decided to start serving meat from animals that have never been given antibiotics or added hormones more than a decade ago,” said 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.”

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

Currently, Chipotle’s protocol allows the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals, but those animals must be removed from Chipotle’s supply. The company said it is evaluating if its 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," said Ells. "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."

The company notes it occasionally experiences shortages of meat that falls within its current standards. During such shortages, it said it uses conventionally raised meats and posts notices by registers to alert customers.

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