Chicago Schools Buy 1.2 Million Pounds of Antibiotic-Free Chicken

Students attending Chicago, Illinois public schools will be among the nation’s first large metropolitan area to be served school meals containing local chicken raised without the use of antibiotics.

Four hundred seventy-three schools in the Chicago area are participating in the program, which will bring the students meals made from the more than 1.2 million pounds of the antibiotic-free chicken that was raised on a local Amish farm in Orland, Indiana and purchased by Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, the food service company that manages the CPS school meals. The relationship was facilitated with support from School Food FOCUS Learning Lab and the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming as well as Whole Foods Market.

As programs like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyards have put an emphasis on healthier food options for the nation’s children, the USDA and a number of school systems have responded with upgraded menu items, reduced sodium trans fat and sugar content. Los Angeles Unified School District—the nation’s largest—recently removed all flavored milk products from their schools to reduce the students’ exposure to sugar.

The CPS move away from antibiotics in meat products marks another step in providing students healthier food options. More than 30 million pounds of antibiotics were used on livestock last year, up nearly 7 percent from 2009. Excessive antibiotic exposure has been linked to a number of health risks including antibiotic resistance and compromised immune function. As well, the use of antibiotics poses threats to the environment including an inability to biodegrade, soil and water contamination and adverse effects on wild plants and animals.

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Image: Jim Mead