McDonald’s is setting out to make a difference with its beef supply—and by doing so, might induce others to do the same.
The fast-food chain announced it will require most suppliers to halt the use of antibiotics in their beef. McDonald’s sources 85 percent of its beef from 10 targeted countries: the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, France and Poland.
The move targets the global problem of antibiotic resistance.
The company says it hopes that if it forces suppliers to stop using antibiotics in beef that competitors will have no choice but to follow suit.
… Why care? Because the World Health Organization identifies human resistance to antibiotics — on the rise because they’re used in so much food production, and we’re thus exposed to trace amounts when we eat — as one of the most pressing health problems on the planet.
McDonald’s becomes the biggest beef buyer to tackle the issue in cattle, potentially creating a new standard for livestock producers and threatening sales by drug companies such as Merck & Co and Elanco Animal Health.
“McDonald’s iconic position and the fact that they’re the largest single global purchaser of beef make it hugely important,” said David Wallinga, a senior health adviser for the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.
In a press release titled, “Using our Scale for Good: McDonald’s New Antibiotic Policy for Beef,” the chain wrote:
According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. With our new policy, McDonald’s is doing our part to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for human and animal health in the future.
… We are on a journey to build a better McDonald’s. As we work in partnership with our supply chain and producer partners to address major challenges like antibiotic resistance, we’ll continue to listen to our customers to make sure we’re meeting and exceeding their expectations every day – from the farm to our restaurants.
In its press release, McDonald’s outlined its plan to reduce antibiotics in its beef supply—many elements of which won’t be realized until 2020.
The reduction won’t happen right away. McDonald’s says there is “limited antibiotic usage data available across the global beef industry,” and this month, the company is establishing regional pilot tests to determine a baseline use of the antibiotics in each of the 10 countries.
Based on what those results reveal, McDonald’s said, it will establish country-specific targets to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics by the end of 2020.
The move follows similar announcements from the fast-food chain to make its options more appealing to health-conscious consumers.
In August 2017, McDonald’s announced it would reduce the use of antibiotics in its global chicken supply, and in October, the chain said it would remove preservatives from its burgers.
The announcement is also an effort to stop criticism and garner positive PR for its initiative to combat a continuing danger within our food supply.
The new commitment from McDonald’s comes at a time when advocates have turned up the volume on their criticism . U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer advocacy group, and more than 80 other stakeholder groups have called on the chain to cut routine antibiotic use . In May, some of these groups delivered a petition to McDonald’s during its shareholder meeting with more than 150,000 signatures.
In October, McDonald’s received an F in a report that examined the top 25 fast-food burger chains’ antibiotic policies. The Chain Reaction report was produced by the Center for Food Safety, Consumer Reports, Food Animal Concerns Trust, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Natural Resources Defense Council.
Environmental organizations have praised McDonald’s decision.
Environmentalists are applauding the commitment. “McDonald’s is the first major burger chain to announce a comprehensive antibiotic use reduction policy for all beef sold by its restaurants — and the largest, by far,” Lena Brook, interim director of food and agriculture at the Natural Resources Defense Council, writes in a statement. The NRDC says at a time when about 40 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the livestock sector in the U.S. go to the beef industry, compared to just 6 percent for chicken, “addressing overuse in beef production is critical to combat drug resistance.”
USA Today reported:
On Monday, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund — which said it’s been urging McDonald’s to phase routine antibiotic use out of its meat supply chain since 2015 — applauded the restaurant company’s announcement.
What do you think of the announcement, PR Daily readers? (image via)