Ranchers and farmers have been pumping cows, chicken, and pigs full of human antibiotics that is slowly destroying the world’s ability to treat infections. The U.N. has called it a global health crisis on par with AIDS, and the CDC now blames antibiotic-resistance for causing 23,000 American deaths each year. While most countries have taken steps to limit the use of antibiotics in animals, there are loopholes in the legislation that may still allow antibiotics to be used as growth promoters.
Chipotle, Subway and Panera Bread are among the nation’s fast food restaurant chains that serve meat “raised without antibiotics,” while McDonald’s has claimed that its chicken is raised without crucial antibiotics.
McDonald’s, the nation’s top beef buyer, has announced a new beef antibiotic policy affecting 85 percent of its global beef supply by 2021. The new policy directs its global suppliers to reduce the use of the drugs in beef produced for the company. The Natural Resources Defense Council has been a stakeholder engaged on the policy since early 2018.
The Chicago-based company said it would work with meat suppliers in its 10 largest beef-sourcing markets, including the U.S.
A New Label for Bigger Profits
Companies are well aware that consumers are driving the demand for antibiotic-free meat. More than half of the U.S. chicken industry is now under a commitment to spearhead a number of changes, including antibiotic-free meat and poultry.
McDonald’s new beef antibiotic policy could set profits soaring. According to a Consumer Reports survey of over 1,000 people, roughly 43% said they always or often buy meat raised without antibiotics at the supermarket. Nearly 6 in 10 people are more inclined to eat at a restaurant if the meat and poultry were raised without antibiotics, and would pay more for a “no antibiotics” burger.
The new antibiotic policy could signal a shift for the global fast food industry.
No Antibiotics Doesn’t Safeguard Against Crisis
No antibiotic policies would still allow fast-food restaurants and livestock producers use of antibiotics that aren’t medically important, which can lead to microbial resistance. Tara C. Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of public health at Kent State University, says genes that create resistance to medically important antibiotics can still tag along with less crucial drugs, leading to similar consequences.