McDonald’s Joins Fight Against Antibiotics

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Responding to growing demands for “clean” food, McDonald’s USA earlier this month announced new menu sourcing initiatives including only sourcing chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine.

In addition, McDonald’s U.S. restaurants will also offer customers milk jugs of low-fat white milk and fat-free chocolate milk from cows that are not treated with rbST, an artificial growth hormone, said a McDonald’s news release.

“Our customers want food that they feel great about eating — all the way from the farm to the restaurant — and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations,” said McDonald’s U.S President Mike Andres.

McDonald’s has been working closely with farmers for years to reduce the use of antibiotics in its poultry supply. This new policy supports the company’s new Global Vision for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Food Animals introduced this week, which builds on the company’s 2003 global antibiotics policy and includes supplier guidance on the thoughtful use of antibiotics in all food animals.

A couple of years ago, a report from Underground Health said the Chicken McNuggets were found to contain strange fibers. “We found dark black hair-like structures sticking out of the nugget mass, as well as light blue egg-shaped structures with attached tail-like hairs or fibers,” reported Underground Health.

All of the chicken served at McDonald’s approximately 14,000 U.S. restaurants comes from U.S. farms which are working closely with McDonald’s to implement the new antibiotics policy to the supply chain within the next two years.

A Reuters investigation last year revealed that some of the nation’s largest poultry producers routinely fed chickens an array of antibiotics, not just when sickness strikes, but as a standard practice over most of the birds’ lives, according to Huffington Post which added that:

The Reuters report also found that low doses of antibiotics were part of the standard diet for some of Tyson’s flocks, including two internal company documents showing the use of bacitracin. Though that drug is not classified as medically important by the federal Food and Drug Administration, bacitracin is commonly used to prevent human skin infections.

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Tyson said it disagreed with the findings of the Reuters investigation but has since taken further steps to reduce or halt antibiotic use, including in its chicken hatcheries.

“McDonald’s believes that any animals that become ill deserve appropriate veterinary care and our suppliers will continue to treat poultry with prescribed antibiotics, and then they will no longer be included in our food supply,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain.

While McDonald’s will only source chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, the farmers who supply chicken for its menu will continue to responsibly use ionophores, a type of antibiotic not used for humans that helps keep chickens healthy.

“If fewer chickens get sick, then fewer chickens need to be treated with antibiotics that are important in human medicine. We believe this is an essential balance,” Gross added.

In another move, McDonald’s U.S. restaurants later this year will offer milk jugs of low-fat white milk and fat-free chocolate milk from cows that are not treated with rbST, an artificial growth hormone. The milk jugs are popular choices in Happy Meals.

“While no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows, we understand this is something that is important to our customers,” Gross said.

All of these actions are the latest steps in McDonald’s USA’s journey to evolve its menu to better meet the changing preferences and expectations of today’s customers. In addition to the menu sourcing changes, McDonald’s USA this week was announced as a founding member of the newly formed U.S. Roundtable on Sustainable Beef. This engagement is a critical step in support of the company’s global commitment and effort to source verified sustainable beef.

“We will continue to look at our food and menu to deliver the kind of great tasting and quality choices that our customers trust and enjoy,” Andres added.

About the author / 

Toure Muhammad

Author Toure Muhammad is the head bean, publisher and chief strategist of Bean Soup Times. The Morehouse graduate has written front page cover stories for The Final Call and N’digo. He has been featured in the Chicago Reader, Upscale magazine, rolling out newspaper, and N’Digo magapaper. He’s been featured on Tavis Smiley’s radio show on NPR, on Chicago’s WBEZ (Chicago public radio), and many other radio shows.

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