Chipotle spent most of 2016 dealing with an optics nightmare following a multi-state E. coli outbreak, but the chain is hoping to make more positive headlines in 2017, with promises to improve the welfare of the chickens it uses to make its baby-size burritos. The company announced a partnership with the Compassion in World Farming USA and The Humane Society of the United States to improve the treatment of the birds from suppliers across the country by 2024 or sooner.

Chief among their concerns are the amount and quality of space provided for each bird, improving the breeding methods in factory farming that often have deleterious effects to the animals, and a slaughtering system that "process[es] chickens in a manner that utilizes a multi-step controlled-atmosphere processing system."

Chipotle has a lengthy history of commitment to animal welfare, insofar as a purchaser of 140 million pounds of chicken a year can be. Under these new requirements, suppliers will be subjected to inspections by Chipotle's Animal Welfare team and other auditors; previously, the chain has stopped serving certain meats after violations were found on the supplier end.

It's not mentioned in the release, but it's possible—and likely—that cost could rise with the new requirements, if not at the consumer level then almost certainly at the corporate one. "The cost of meat from slow-growing birds, which are often raised outdoors, can range from 20% to three times more than the price of conventional chicken," an investigation by the Wall Street Journal discovered.

For people who stuck with them through the bloody diarrhea threat, a few more cents for ethically-raised chicken seems like a less risky investment.

[h/t Grub Street]