McDonald's is the first burger chain to announce plans to reduce antibiotic use in its beef products on a global scale. Suppliers for the world's largest fast-food chain will need to comply with the standards by 2021.
The company says it will start in ten test markets as pilot projects next year.
The decision makes McDonald's the first fast-food burger chain to commit to an antibiotic reduction policy for beef products. Chains such as Subway, Panera, and Chipotle already have antibiotic reduction policies in place, but not at this scale.
The move comes as McDonald's has been lagging behind its competitors in appealing to younger consumers who favor brands with social, environmental, and ethical commitments.
“This important step forward raises the bar for other burger chains and sends an unmistakable market signal to beef producers worldwide," Lena Brook, Interim Director of Food and Agriculture at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "Nobody in the world sells more burgers than McDonald’s, and their actions can shape the future of the industry. With Washington asleep at the wheel on this rising health threat, leadership in the marketplace is essential. We will be watching with great interest to see how this policy unfolds.”
Medically important antibiotics are used in livestock production to prevent and treat diseases. But the enhanced growth, a side effect of the drugs, has made them a routine practice. About 43 percent of all medically important antibiotics go to beef production.
Widespread use of antibiotics contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections, which kill more than 23,000 people every year.
“We expect this to be the first of many commitments from food companies to purchase beef raised without medically important antibiotics; importantly, this means that the beef industry will need to change their practices to meet this growing demand,” said Christy Spees, environmental health program manager at As You Sow.
“There is still significant work to be done by food companies to curb the use of antibiotics,” said Spees. “With McDonald’s leading the way, there is no reason why other major fast food chains should not follow with their own commitments to source responsibly raised beef.
“We look forward to continuing to engage the company on establishing a similar policy for its pork supply chain, but today we are happy to congratulate McDonald’s on this positive step forward.”
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