McD’s vows to reduce antibiotics in chicken, hormones in milk

McDonald’s USA pledged today to eliminate “antibiotics that are important to human medicine” from its McNuggets and other chicken items and to offer milk from cows that were not treated with rbST, a controversial growth hormone.

“Our customers want food that they feel great about eating – all the way from the farm to the restaurant – and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations,” said McDonald’s U.S President Mike Andres.

The revisions of the fast-food giant’s poultry sourcing standards will be adopted during the next two years, headquarters said.

The changes in the chain’s sourcing standards are expected to ripple through the rest of the industry because of McDonald’s purchasing scale. Many producers will likely adjust their animal husbandry processes because the fast-food giant buys in such large volumes. With that sudden jump in demand prompting a corresponding rise in supply, many chains may find chicken with reduced antibiotics easier to source, according to financial analysts.

McDonald’s acknowledged that it would not limit itself to buying completely antibiotic-free chickens. Rather, it will purchase birds that have not been treated with antibiotics that are also used to fight infections in humans. Some authorities suspect that germs build up a tolerance to the antibiotics and can resist the usual drug treatments when a person is sick.

Chickens treated with ionophores, antibiotics not given to humans, will continue to be purchased by the chain.

Adjustments in McDonald’s sourcing standards for milk extend to the low-fat regular milk and fat-free chocolate milk that are offered in single-serving sizes for the chain’s Happy Meals. Beginning later this year, patrons will be able to opt for versions that come from dairies where rbST is not used to boost milk production.

“While no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows, we understand this is something that is important to our customers,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain.

McDonald’s will continue to look for ways to deliver meals that today’s customers “trust and enjoy,” commented Andres.

McDonald’s operates or franchises about 14,000 restaurants in the United States.

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