Subway Is the Latest Chain to Transition Away from Antibiotics in Meat

Subway Transitions Away from Antibiotics in Meat

Subway has announced it will phase out antibiotics in meat from its supply chains starting in 2016. Following in the footsteps of fast food restaurants like Chipotle, Panera, Chick-fil-A, and McDonald’s, the sandwich giant said it will no longer serve pork, beef, and poultry produced from livestock that were given antibiotics.

“Today’s consumer is ever more mindful of what they are eating, and we’ve been making changes to address what they are looking for,” Dennis Clabby, executive vice president of Subway’s Independent Purchasing Cooperative (IPC) said in a statement. “A change like this will take some time, particularly since the supply of beef raised without antibiotics in the U.S. is extremely limited and cattle take significantly longer to raise. But, we are working diligently with our suppliers to make it happen.”

The chain said its chicken will be antibiotic-free by the end of 2016, followed by turkey in two to three years, and pork and beef within the decade. Subway is going further than chains like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, which have only announced removal of antibiotics from poultry supply chains.

“Given the size and scope of the Subway brand, this commitment is the largest of its kind in the restaurant industry,” added Clabby. “We hope that this commitment will encourage other companies in our industry to follow our lead, and that, together, this will drive suppliers to move faster to make these important changes for consumers.”

The transition to antibiotic-free pork and beef will take longer because of its limited availability. Antibiotic-free poultry production, on the other hand, is already mainstream. Perdue, for example, says that 95 percent of its chickens receive no human antibiotics and half receive no antibiotics at all. Tyson’s also announced it will transition away from antibiotics that are important for human medicine.

NRDC’s Food Policy Advocate Lena Brook said that this is “a strong plan that will help the company live up to the healthy image it has long-cultivated.” The organization has been on a crusade to push the chain to rethink its antibiotics policy.

In June, Subway announced it would remove all artificial flavors, artificial colors, and preservatives from its sandwiches, salads, soups, and cookies by the end of 2017.

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Image: Mike Mozart