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Chipotle's Largest Sustainable Pork Supplier Bought by Big Ag Corporation

Perdue Farms will soon close a deal with Niman Ranch.

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Niman Ranch — the sustainable pork producer that saved Chipotle from its carnitas crisis of 2015 — is being purchased by Perdue Farms, a Big Agricultural corporation. According to Reuters, the two companies expect to close a deal very soon for an undisclosed amount of money.

Perdue is the latest food corporation "seeking to expands its presence in the fast-growing U.S. natural foods market." Niman Ranch — which is Chipotle's largest pork provider — is known for working with independent farmers and raising it meat without antibiotics, two tactics that large corporations like Perdue tend to shy away from. Jeff Tripician, the chief marketing officer for Niman Ranch, says that the company plans to continue to produce animals the same way as they always have and that the deal will allow the company "to produce more pork of our quality."

This isn't Perdue's first foray into natural meat production: The company, which supplies chains like Chick-fil-A, does produce antibiotic-free chicken. Perdue's CEO Jim Perdue also notes that the company "understand[s] and respect[s] what Niman Ranch represents," but that hasn't stopped the backlash. Niman Ranch's Facebook page is inundated with comments from those upset about the deal.

As for Chipotle, a spokesperson tells Eater that the sale won't affect its relationship with Niman Ranch:

"Niman has been a great supply partner to us for more than 15 years, and has a very well earned reputation for producing great tasting pork from pigs raised to a very high welfare standard. We have been assured that Niman will continue to raise pigs to those same standards, and don't foresee this acquisition having any impact on our business."

Take Part argues that the deal might actually be a very good thing because it shows that large corporations are starting to care about raising more humane and higher quality meat. Perdue claims that it has made a "strategic direction shift," and that it is paying "closer attention to animal welfare" as well as increasing organic production. Perdue's CEO added that the company hopes to learn more about animal welfare from Niman Ranch. "We absolutely can learn from them in that area... I think they can bring us a lot of new ideas, especially in the sow production side of the business."