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Chipotle still facing pork shortage, no carnitas in the near future

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A carnitas burrito bowl gets the works at Chipotle. (Reuters)

Bad news for carnitas lovers.

Chipotle is still struggling to fulfill demand for the popular pork item at many of its restaurants across the country, reports Bloomberg. This January, the chain stopped serving carnitas restaurants at hundreds of restaurants after suspending a supplier that violated its production standards.

“We don’t know for sure when we’ll be fully supplied again,” Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle, told Bloomberg. “For many years, we’ve been operating in a system where the primary food supply doesn’t meet our standards.”

In addition to a shortage of pork, the chain has also been running low on its humanely raised, antibiotic-free beef and chicken supply, forcing it to turn to other options. And Chipotle fans aren’t too happy, taking to social media to vent their frustrations.

Despite the supply shortages, the chain still has aggressive expansion plans, opening as many as 205 new locations nationwide this year. But they may have to reconsider its growth plan if supply issues perpetuate.

“The company may be forced to slow its store growth if it can’t evolve new relationships with ‘sustainable’ suppliers quickly enough,” Asit Sharma, an analyst at the Motley Fool, told Bloomberg.

Given the popularity of the Mexican Grill chain, many may be wondering why hog farmers haven’t adjusted their practices to meet Chipotle’s stringent standards. But transitioning a traditional hog farm to a sustainable, humane, antibiotic free operation is no easy task. It can take four times as long to care for the pigs and can be twice as expensive, according to Iowa pig farmer Chuck Wirtz.

Even if farms are willing to adopt compliant practices, it will likely take “many years” for conventional farms to make the necessary changes meaning hungry carnitas customers will likely have to go without for the forseeable future.