McDonald’s sets targets for responsible antibiotic use in its global beef supply chain

Media Contacts
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG

CHICAGO — Four years after committing to — yet never acting on — what could have been an industry-changing policy on reducing antibiotic use in its global beef supply chain, on Tuesday, McDonald’s posted an update to its policy. The fast food giant now has set “responsible use” targets for the amount of medically important antibiotics its suppliers can use when raising cattle in an attempt to reduce overall antibiotic use. As one of the world’s largest beef purchasers, McDonald’s update has the potential to make a meaningful impact in the industry if it follows through on it.

In 2018, McDonald’s committed to set concrete targets for reducing the use of medically important antibiotics in its beef supply chain by the end of 2020. The company failed to meet that self-imposed deadline. If McDonald’s meets its new “responsible antibiotic use” target and implements the accompanying practices for its U.S. supply chain it would likely result in meaningful reductions in antibiotic use. However, the company has no timeline for implementing the practices that will allow it to hit that goal.

Over the last two years, PIRG, health professionals and consumers have urged McDonald’s to make good on its pledge to reduce antibiotic use in its beef supply chain. Overuse of these infection-fighting drugs in agriculture can contribute to the development and proliferation of the potentially deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs.”

In response, Matt Wellington, PIRG’s Public Health Campaigns Director, issued the following statement:

“Antibiotics are precious medicines that are rapidly losing effectiveness because of overuse. If McDonald’s follows through and meets its targets for responsible antibiotic use, it could go a long way to help preserve our life-saving medicines.”

“McDonald’s can help change the face of the beef industry and stop rampant misuse of antibiotics, but it’s critical that the company set a deadline for meeting its targets and establish a way to measure their progress towards them. Otherwise, it’s just a pipe dream. Given the severity of the antibiotic resistance crisis, I hope McDonald’s will commit to meet its responsible antibiotic use targets within the next two years.”