McDonald's outlines plan to cut antibiotics from its beef supply

McDonald's outlines plan to cut antibiotics from its beef supply

Originally published on USA Today

McDonald's has announced plans to cut usage of antibiotics that are important to human health in the beef it serves.

The Chicago-based restaurant chain said Tuesday that it's working with meat suppliers in its top 10 beef sourcing markets, including the U.S., to "measure and understand" the current usage of antibiotics. McDonald's then will set reduction goals by the end of 2020 based on that research and, in 2022, start reporting its progress in reaching those targets.

The other markets are Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland and the United Kingdom. Together, the 10 represent more than 85 percent of the brand's global beef supply, according to the company.

McDonald's is the world's largest burger chain with more than 37,000 locations in 120 markets. 

“McDonald’s believes antibiotic resistance is a critical public health issue and we take seriously our unique position to use our scale for good to continue to address this challenge,” Keith Kenny, McDonald’s global vice president for sustainability, said in a statement. 

The problem with antibiotics is that when they're given to animals — usually via feed or water, in an effort to keep them healthy on farms —  that humans ultimately eat, it can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and drug-resistant infections in humans, according to experts.

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.

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.

"The Golden Arches just raised the bar for responsible antibiotic use in meat production," said Matthew Wellington, the consumer group's antibiotics program director. "McDonald’s new commitment is a promising step forward that will help preserve antibiotics for the future and that’s something we should all be happy about."

In 2016, McDonald's curbed antibiotics in its chicken supply in the U.S. and is now working to do so globally.

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