McDonald’s, Costco commit to sourcing chicken raised without human antibiotics

By Meg Bohne on Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

One of the world’s largest and most iconic fast food chains has made a commitment on its chicken sourcing, announcing it will no longer allow the use of antibiotics important in human medicine in the production of chicken for its US restaurants. McDonald’s says it will complete this transition within two years, by 2017.

On the CBS Morning Show, Jean Halloran of Consumers Union called it “an important step” in the fight against the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production, and urged McDonald’s to make a similar commitment on its pork and beef as well.

In a press statement Halloran encouraged other companies to follow McDonalds’ lead.   As Steven Roach, director of Food Animal Concerns Trust, noted in the New York Times,“The last time McDonald’s did something like this, five other fast-food companies made similar announcements within six months.  I would expect we’re going to see a similar pattern this time around.”

Indeed, the McDonald’s announcement was followed shortly by a statement from Costco that the company is also working towards eliminating the use of human antibiotics in its chicken and other meats. Costco has not yet announced a timeline for the transition.  “I think all of us want to move to a point where we can get the human-use antibiotics out of the system. It’s going to take time,” said a Costco VP.

The announcement also prompted an update from Chick-fil-A, which is currently in progress to phase out the use of all antibiotics in its chicken supply by 2019.   The company says it has “converted more than 20% of our supply to poultry raised without antibiotics and have put into place an auditing process through the USDA to verify that antibiotics are never administered from the hatchery to the processing plant.”

While we applaud these corporate commitments, we continue to push for legislative solutions that would require the responsible use of antibiotics in all meat production.  In Congress, the recently reintroduced Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) would end the use of antibiotics important in human medicine on livestock, except to treat sick animals.

“My legislation would save eight critical classes of antibiotics from being routinely fed to healthy animals and would reserve them only for sick humans and sick animals,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, sponsor of the bill. “Right now, we are allowing the greatest medical advancement of the 20th century to be frittered away, in part because it’s cheaper for factory farms to feed these critical drugs to animals rather than clean up the deplorable conditions on the farm.”

Take action now – send an email to your Representative and ask him or her to take a stand for public health and support this bill to preserve our antibiotics!

In some cases, states are taking matters into their own hands. A similar bill has been proposed in the Oregon state legislature, and other bills regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock production are also pending in California and Minnesota.

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