Stop The Overuse Of Antibiotics

PIRG Urges McDonald’s to Honor Its Commitment to Reduce Antibiotics in Meat

Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” sicken millions of Americans each year. Two-thirds of medically important antibiotics are used in animal agriculture.

Abe Scarr | Used by permission

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. Then, in December 2022, McDonald’s announced a new “responsible antibiotic use” target for its U.S. supply chain of 35 mg of antibiotics per kg of livestock, and 50 mg/kg for dairy cows, which would likely be significantly less than the rate of current antibiotic use in American beef production. However, the company still has no timeline for implementing its target.

Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” sicken millions of Americans each year, and kill tens of thousands. One of the primary ways these dangerous bacteria develop is through the overuse of our medically important antibiotics in animal agriculture. Almost two thirds of all medically important antibiotics are NOT used in human medicine, rather they are used in meat production, and often given in routine doses to animals that are not sick. It is absurd to waste a critical medicine for the sake of a slightly cheaper burger.

On May 25th, 2023, McDonald’s shareholders considered a resolution calling on the company to restore its 2018 pledge, and set a timeline for implementation. That would be an important step which would return McDonald’s to a leadership position on this critical public health issue. At the meeting, just 16.6% of shareholders supported the resolution. While not a majority, it will be noticeable to McDonald’s management that such a large group of their shareholders opposed their position. Prior to the meeting, PIRG staff delivered over 10,000 comments in support of the policy to CEO Chris Kempczinski at the Chicago headquarters, and PIRG will continue campaigning to get McDonald’s to stop the overuse of antibiotics, preserving one of our most important life-saving medicines.

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