In a move that will have repercussions throughout the chicken industry in the United States, McDonald's announced that it will gradually stop buying chicken raised with antibiotics that are used in humans. This move will have a large effect on how all chickens are raised in the United States because the fast-food chain is one of the largest buyers of chicken in the country.
Health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been concerned for many years that the overuse of antibiotics in poultry and livestock is causing the same antibiotics to lose their effectiveness in fighting diseases in people. More bacteria are becoming resistant to the drugs used in agriculture, where they are often used to increase animal growth, which means they lose their usefulness as human medicines.
The shift by McDonald's will be phased in over the next two years. The company also announced that they will give customers a choice of low-fat milk and chocolate milk from cows that have not been treated with growth hormones. This change will take effect later this year.
McDonald's is famous for their hamburgers, but they actually sell more chicken than beef. The company has 14,000 restaurants in the United States.
The National Chicken Council, a trade organization, issued a statement saying that most antibiotics used to treat diseases in chicken were never used in people.
McDonald's said that it is working with its chicken suppliers, Including Tyson Foods, Inc., in this effort. Perdue, another major chicken company, said last September that it no longer uses antibiotics in its hatcheries, which was one of the last parts of its production line where the drugs were still in use. Tyson Foods made a similar announcement a month later.
Other chain restaurants have made similar moves. Panera Bread has used meat raised with no antibiotics for more than 10 years. Chick-fil-A announced it would no longer use chicken raised with antibiotics a year ago.