If you’re a fan of Panera Bread or Chipotle, you’re probably aware of the chains’ progressive policies regarding the use of antibiotic-free meat. Both brands have almost completely eliminated antibiotics of their respective meat reserves, and the two make a point of incorporating the philosophy of the best meat as a central pillar of their brand.
Antibiotic-free meat may have made its name at Panera and Chipotle, but it’s becoming more and more common in the American fast food industry. Massive chains like McDonald’s, Subway and Dunkin’ have all, at this point, take the leap for Quality chicken “without antibiotics”and Mickey D’s has long term plans to reduce the use of antibiotics in his beef. Far from being a fad, antibiotic-free meat is quickly becoming a new industry standard.
And with good reason, it seems. The use of antibiotics in the agricultural industry contributes to the proliferation of antibiotic resistant germsconsidered by the CDC to be “one of the most pressing public health problems”. According to the federal agency, bacteria and fungi resistant to antibiotics cause more than 2.8 million infections in the United States per yearand more than 35,000 dead. Superbugs, as they are also known, prolong recovery time in infected patients, cause long-term side effects and can, in some cases, produce incurable infections.
Of course, antibiotic resistance is only one side of the story. Amy Goodson, Registered Dietitian and Certified Sports Dietitian, says Eat this, not that! there is no evidence that meat without antibiotics is, in itself, safer for consumers than the alternative. Indeed, antibiotics are an important tool for the treatment and prevention of disease in livestock, and their use is closely monitored by several federal agencies, including the FDA and USDA.
However, antibiotics become a problem when overused. According to CDC, to avoid “unnecessary use of antibiotics” in agriculture is an important strategy to slow the global spread of antibiotic resistance. And of course, some fast food chains have heeded this advice.
Others, however, have not and continue to source meat from animals treated with antibiotics. Website Feed them wisely has come up with a handy chart that ranks fast food brands based on their antibiotic policies. Here’s a look at five big chains whose antibiotic policies still aren’t enough.
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From 2020, the burger chain had no publicly available policy regarding the use of antibiotics in its beef and pork. In 2018, Consumer Reports included Five Guys in its annual report Chain reaction report– a study ranking US fast food chains according to the progressiveness of their antibiotic policies. Five Guys received an overall rating of “F”.
Dairy Queen has, to be fair, a policy limit the use of antibiotics in its chicken supply. But as soon as 2020, the chain did not have a publicly available antibiotic policy regarding beef and pork. DQ received a failing grade on Consumer Report’s latest report Chain Reaction Industry Survey.
Feed them wisely ranks Taco Bell among those fast food chains with minimal antibiotic policies – not the worst ranking, but not great either. Although the taco chain has a policy limiting the use of antibiotics in its poultry, it still uses antibiotics in its beef and pork. (Antibiotic use in Taco Bell’s beef supply will only see a 25% reduction by 2025, according to plans announced in 2019.) Taco Bell received a “D” in Consumer Reports’ 2021 Chain Reaction Report.
Another massive chain with minimal antibiotic policies, for Feed them wisely. Like Taco Bell, Burger King uses limited antibiotics in its chicken, but has no publicly available policies regarding its beef and pork sourcing. The Whopper’s home received an “F” in Consumer Reports’ latest Chain Reaction survey.
The world’s largest pizza chain has taken steps to reduce antibiotics in its chicken, but currently has no policies in place limiting the use of antimicrobials in its beef and pork supplies. A divided opinion on Domino’s website describes a general intention to switch to beef and pork without antibiotics at some point in the future, but does not specify an exact timeline. The pizza chain received a failing grade in Consumer Reports’ 2021 chain reaction report.