Stop The Overuse Of Antibiotics

UPDATE: Perdue’s “Chix Mix” draws contrast with Tyson Foods’ antibiotic use policy

Chicken industry rivals are eager to highlight responsible antibiotic stewardship, but there’s a long way to go on beef.

Sergey Ryzhov via Adobe Stock | Adobe Stock

Last month, the top chicken producer Perdue released “Chix Mix” – a snack for humans based on the company’s chicken feed – to highlight that its birds are raised without routine antibiotic use. It used the marketing stunt to call out its largest competitor – Tyson Foods – for “go[ing] back to giving their chickens antibiotics before they’re even sick.” 

From Perdue’s website:

In 2017, Tyson Foods followed Perdue’s lead by pledging to phase out antibiotic use entirely – a huge win for public health. But then the chicken producer backslid in July 2023, announcing that it would resume using some of the drugs.   

After campaigning for years for fast-food restaurants and grocery chains to phase out the routine use of antibiotics, we’re proud to see chicken brands competing to market their antibiotic stewardship bonafides. Using antibiotics less is the best way to preserve their effectiveness and protect people from drug-resistant “superbugs,” which kill at least 35,000 Americans every year and sicken over 2.8 million. Yet even as we’ve helped drive the chicken industry away from antibiotics over the last decade, we’re still way behind on beef.

In January 2018, U.S. PIRG Education Fund launched a campaign urging McDonald’s to commit to reducing the use of medically important antibiotics in its massive beef supply chain. After hearing from consumers, medical experts and other stakeholders, McDonald’s released a commitment in December 2018 that it would set reduction targets by the end of 2020. The fast food chain finally did so in December 2022, but without a benchmark of current antibiotic use to measure against. Without that benchmark, it’s difficult to tell how impactful its commitment will be, whether it’s a major step forward or just slightly better than the status quo. 

That’s why we’re renewing our call for McDonald’s to follow through on its commitment by taking these three steps:

  1. Set a baseline level of antibiotic use from which to measure progress. 
  2. Create and publicize an implementation plan that describes how it will move from the status quo to its targets.
  3. Release a timeline for making progress toward and achieving the target so the public can hold it accountable.

As the world’s largest beef purchaser, McDonald’s 2018 commitment had the potential to change the face of the beef industry – and it still does. Moving forward, actions will speak louder than words.

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