Restaurants are Looking to the Supply Chain to Keep up With Consumer Tastes

Earlier this year, Chipotle Mexican Grill was in a situation where they had to do without pork in a number of their restaurants. This provided a signal to many that American food suppliers were not keeping pace with the changing food supply landscape.

Chipotle puts an emphasis on meat that is raised without being tainted by antibiotics or hormones, and as a result, had cancelled the supply from a farm which was not meeting their standards for animal welfare. There was no immediate replacement available, so the restaurant chain took a loss so that they could preserve their standards for putting a higher standard of pork on the plate.

In the end, the fast casual food chain, which is based out of Denver, were forced to source their pork from the UK, as a result they are able to put carnitas back on the menu throughout their restaurant chain by the end of the fourth quarter.

Chipotle’s CEO, Steve Ellis, has said that the chain prefers to source within the US, but the problem is that the quantities of pork they require are not available from within their network of domestic suppliers. He estimates that approximately 95% of pork raised in the US does not meet their standards.

This is at a time when food standards matter more than ever, for Chipotle and the food industry as a whole.

A plethora of restaurant chains have made promises to improve the standards they employ for sourcing ingredients—consumers are becoming more savvy to whether the food they are being sold is organic, fresh, produced locally, eggs which have been supplied from free range farms, dairy products which are free from hormones and that meat is raised in a humane way without being pumped with antibiotics.

These developments can only serve to put more pressure on supply chains. Experts claim it will take many years for Big Agriculture to adapt it’s system which is impacted by government subsidies, industry politics and changes in global trade trends, and on top of this, there is the challenge of climate change to contend with.

However, change is taking place, being driven by diners. What started as a slow trend has turned into a tidal wave of consumer demand for better ingredients. There’s too much at stake now for restaurants whom do not adapt to these changes.

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