Shake Shack pokes Chick-fil-A by giving away antibiotic-free chicken sandwiches

Available on Sundays through the month of April, the promotion spotlights Shake Shack's continued commitment to chicken raised without the use of antibiotics.
chicken sandwich
In addition to Shake Shack's Chicken Shack sandwich, the chain's beef and pork also come from suppliers that do not use antibiotics in meat production. |Photo: Shutterstock.

Shake Shack would like people to eat more chicken. “Antibiotic-free” chicken, that is.

In what is clearly a dig at Chick-fil-A and its “Eat Mor Chikin” ads, Shake Shack during the month of April on Sundays is offering free chicken sandwiches (with a $10 minimum purchase) when people order on the app or website using the promo code “CHICKENSUNDAY.”

“Here at Shake Shack, we pride ourselves on our Chicken Shack, which is available 7 days a week,” the brand says on its website. “With crispy, white-meat chicken breast over lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayo on a toasted potato bun, this sandwich outshines its competition. And what makes our Chicken Shack even better, is that it’s made with antbiotic-free chicken, something not everyone can say these days.”

The promotion is on Sundays, most likely, because Chick-fil-A is famously closed on Sundays.

Chick-fil-A also recently said it is walking back somewhat on its commitment to serve chicken raised with No Antibiotics Ever, or NAE, shifting instead to meat raised with No Antibiotics Important to Human Medicine, or NAIHM. Chick-fil-A said the move was necessary to maintain supplies.

At Shake Shack, meanwhile, not only is the chicken NAE but the chain’s beef and pork are also from suppliers that do not use antibiotics in the production of meat, which is verified by third-party auditors, according to the chain’s sustainability report.

And, with the promotion on Sundays, Shake Shack hopes to draw attention to that fact.

Antibiotics have been used in the mass production of meat to prevent illness, but also to promote growth in the animals. But federal health officials say the practice has led to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which threatens human health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now has stricter rules for the use of antibiotics in raising animals for meat, but farmers can still purchase medically important antibiotics with a veterinarian prescription. Some producers contend the use of antibiotics is needed to control disease in crowded chicken coops.

Last year, Tyson Foods, for example, reportedly dropped its “no antibiotics ever” label and moved to NAIHM chicken, saying the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Health Organization at the time allowed for the use of antibiotics not crucial to the treatment of human disease.

Chick-fil-A, a nearly 3,000-unit chain that last year boasted an average unit volume of $7.5 million—and stand-alone units had an AUV of $9.4 million—is not exactly a direct competitor for Shake Shack, which is primarily a burger chain. Shake Shack, with about 334 units last year, has an AUV of $3.8 million, according to sister company Technomic’s Ignite data.

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