Rejoice, Parents, for your children's Happy Meals are getting a tiny bit happier. McDonald's, best known for pink slime and criminally low wages, announced Wednesday that they will now source antibiotic-free chicken to make McNuggets and those Southern Style Chicken Sandwiches I won't admit I love. The move is the latest in a series of efforts McDonald's is making to improve their image and combat dwindling sales. According to their press release:
Over the next two years, the chain says its U.S. restaurants — which number around 14,000 — will transition to the new antibiotics policy, which prohibits suppliers from using antibiotics critical to treating human illness.
Suppliers will still be able to use ionophores, an animal antibiotic not used on humans, to keep chickens healthy. In addition, they can use traditional antibiotics on sick animals as long as they remove those animals from the supply.
“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.
Antibiotic use in the meat industry and the increasing fear of antibiotic resistance has been in the news a lot recently. If you're unfamiliar with the issue, basically scientists are concerned that continual use of antibiotics in livestock will cause bacteria to adapt to them faster and become resistant, making the antibiotics ineffective for use in humans.
According to NPR, a group of scientists who advise the White House warned in September that "the risks to human health posed by the agricultural use of antibiotics are, appropriately, a matter of very serious concern." A 2014 report commissioned by the UK government concluded that antibiotic resistant "superbugs" will kill more people than cancer by 2050.
As a result, antibiotic-free meat and dairy products are a growing sector in the market and fast food establishments are scrambling to meet the demand. Chick-Fil-A made the decision to go antibiotic-free in 2014 and Chipotle and Panera have been sourcing antibiotic-free meat for well over a decade. This move by McDonald's is a positive effort to keep up with the evolving needs and concerns of their consumers.
For all the heat it takes, McDonald's still holds a place in the diet of millions of Americans, whether as an occasional treat or as a staple. Busy and low-income parents often rely on fast food to get their families fed quickly and on the cheap and they deserve quality food, regardless of where it comes from. I'm optimistic that this response to the worry about antibiotic use is a sign that McDonald's will start taking other consumer concerns more seriously.
McDonald's has been outpaced recently by competitors like Chipotle, who offer higher quality food at close to the same level of price and convenience. While I'm inclined to doubt that McDonald's has true concerns about our health, it's good to see industry competition starting to pay off and lead to higher quality across the board. Now if they could just start paying their employees a living wage I might not feel like such an asshole every time I take my daughter to eat at a McDonald's Play Place.
(Photo: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock)