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Why Chipotle’s Pork Problem Is Good for Farmers

Insights + Opinion

News that Chipotle pulled pork from many of its menus, due to an issue with one of their supplier's animal welfare practices, has been blowing up all over the news and social media. The Washington Post and others believe that the company's high standards for animal welfare are laudable, but at this point a real problem.

On our 333 acre organic farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania we have a robust organic pork operation that is setting the standard for best practices in raising hogs. Photo credit: Rodale Institute

In my mind, this is a good problem.

I applaud Chipotle for holding their farmers to high standards. Chipotle seeks out farmers who raise hogs according to strict animal welfare practices. And I thank them for not compromising their principles, and for pushing production to be more humane.

So this “pork problem" is not a problem at all.

It's an opportunity for farmers to get ahead of the curve and work with restaurateurs and grocers who demand healthy, humanely raised organic products for their customers.

There are not enough organic farmers in the U.S. At Rodale Institute, we're working to change that. On our 333 acre organic farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania we have a robust organic pork operation that is setting the standard for best practices in raising hogs.

In developing our hog operation, we learned a few things …

  1. Organic hogs, including breeding stock, are difficult to source.
  2. Demand for humanely raised organic pork exceeds current supply.
  3. Farmers can profitably raise organic pork on underutilized, marginal land.

Just this week, we put the roof on a new facility for our hogs that will revolutionize the way we raise pastured pork in the U.S. The beauty of this facility is that it can be scaled up for farmers who wish to have a large-scale operation, but also scaled down for farmers who wish to have just a few animals.

How do we do this? Our hogs are raised on pasture in a facility that offers them shelter, but also open access to the outdoors. We focus on heritage breed animals that thrive on pasture. We plant crops for them to forage, cutting down on feed costs, while also managing our land effectively.

Our goal is to help farmers transition to organic or begin farming organically. Restaurants like Chipotle, which hold as their mission to serve “food with integrity," are experiencing explosive growth.

Now, the farming community needs to catch up and make Chipotle's “pork problem" no problem.

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