- McDonald's will adopt a policy to reduce its usage of antibiotics across 85% of its supply chain. It will partner with beef suppliers in its top 10 beef sourcing markets to better understand the current usage of antibiotics within its global supply chain, McDonald's said in a press release.
- Using these findings, the burger chain will create reduction targets by the end of 2020.
- The chain will provide a progress report on its work on reducing antibiotics across its top markets starting in 2022.
Driven by consumer demand, more fast food restaurants and food suppliers are looking to remove unnecessary antibiotics from their meat and chicken supply chain. Food producers have long relied on antibiotics to keep animals disease-free and promote growth, but scientists warn that use of antibiotics in agriculture is creating a growing risk of antibiotic resistance. About 70% of medically-important antibiotics go to food-producing animals in the U.S.
This move is likely to have significant impacts on the beef market, especially since McDonald's has 37,000 restaurants worldwide. But the shift won’t happen overnight, giving producers and franchisees a chance to adjust. Over time the chain plans to refine and reduce the use of antibiotics and replace them with long-term alternatives that will prevent diseases in animals, the company said in its announcement.
Globally, the company has been reducing its use of antibiotics since 2003. McDonald's USA reached its commitment to serve antibiotic-free chicken in 2016, a year ahead of its target date. Last year it said it would expand its chicken antibiotics policy globally, according to the company's announcement.
Despite these efforts, the company still has a long way to go. The chain scored an F from Chain Reaction earlier this year after failing to take steps to remove antibiotics from its beef products. Out of 25 burger chains, only two scored high grades. Shake Shack and BurgerFi scored A's while Wendy’s received a barely passing grade since at the time it bought 15% of its beef supply from suppliers that have reduced the use of antibiotics. The company announced Wednesday, however, that it will partner with the Progressive Beef program, which is an animal care and sustainability program that improves cattle care and provides better food and antibiotic safety.
McDonald's said it removed preservatives and fake coloring from its beef in September and began rolling out fresh beef instead of frozen in its Quarter Pounders in March. In 2016, it took artificial preservatives out of its chicken nuggets.
Other fast food chains have reduced their use of antibiotics in beef, including In-N-Out and Wendy's. Chick-fil-A is on its way to having its chicken supply completely free of antibiotics by 2019. Additional chains working to address this issue within their chicken products include KFC, Pizza Hut, Boston Market, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. McDonald's new reduction goal could spark an expansion of this cohort, especially since consumer distaste for antibiotics in food shows no sign of fading away.