In a move that aligns Wendy’s Co. with the growing trend toward healthier fast and processed food options, the chain has announced it’s bringing an end to antibiotics in the more than 250 million pounds of chicken served annually at its restaurants by 2017. The chain said it’s also working toward reducing antibiotics in its pork and beef products by 2017 as well.
“We are working with our suppliers and farmers and ranchers to reduce the use of antibiotics that are important to human medicine,” the chain explained on its website. “To do so, we have joined our key suppliers in investigating environments, therapies and treatments that will reduce the need for preventive antibiotics.”
Currently, half of the chickens used by Wendy’s, the nation’s fifth largest fast-food chain, are already raised without antibiotics, putting the chain on target to meet its 2017 goal. Antibiotics in livestock feed are used not only to prevent and treat infections common in dense and dirty factory farms, but most often to enhance animal growth, reducing time to market weight and increasing the number of animals farms can raise each year.
The use of antibiotics in livestock considered medically important for humans has led to a concerning uptick in life-threatening antibiotic-resistant infections, leading the medical and scientific communities to scramble for effective alternatives. Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” develop as humans consume animal products that contain traces of the antibiotics. Approximately 70 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to livestock animals despite growing consumer demand for healthier animal-based products.
But the tide is clearly turning. Wendy’s announcement comes in the same week that McDonald’s, the leading fast-food restaurant chain, announced a move away from antibiotics in chicken as well as the removal of artificial preservatives and high fructose corn syrup from some of its menu items.
Recently, Wendy's committed to working to transition to cage-free eggs, it added an organic tea to its menu, and it recently tested out a vegan black bean burger in several markets as part of its efforts to offer healthier food.
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