McDonald’s said Wednesday it aims to serve up more antibiotic-free meat at its restaurants around the world.
The world’s largest burger chain said it will work toward limiting the use in cattle and pigs of antibiotics important to human medicine, a significant move because McDonald’s is the biggest purchaser of beef in the country and one of the largest buyers of pork.
It also said it will stop using chickens raised with antibiotics important to human medicine within 10 years around the world. The Oak Brook-based burger chain, which has 14,000 U.S. restaurants and 36,000 locations worldwide, last year phased out that type of chicken meat in the U.S.
McDonald’s suppliers are still allowed to use a type of antibiotic not used to treat humans, called ionophores.
Phasing out the use of antibiotics used in human medicine is critical, experts say, because of growing resistance and fear of massive public health issues. Many restaurant chains have made promises to curb their use of meat that contains antibiotics, which on large industrial farms are often used routinely in animal feed. McDonald’s, in making its commitment, said that while it would work to stop routine use of these drugs, it would continue to allow suppliers to use them on animals when they’re sick.
“The misuse of antibiotics and the rise of resistant bacteria is a worldwide health problem, not just a U.S. problem,” said Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “We’re glad that McDonald’s is working to preserve the effectiveness of these lifesaving medicines globally, and hope the chain moves quickly to make that vision a reality.”