The first progress reports are slated for 2022.

By Mike Pomranz
December 12, 2018
picture alliance/Getty Images

As the world's largest burger chain, McDonald's is — by default — the company that most clearly defines the direction the industry is headed. So whenever McDonald's makes a global, system-wide change, it's worth taking note — especially when those decisions are meant to benefit our health. McDonald's understands that power, announcing yesterday that the chain would be "using our scale for good" by promising to reduce its overall use of "antibiotics important to human health" across 85 percent of the brand's global beef supply chain.

"McDonald's believes antibiotic resistance is a critical public health issue, and we take serious our unique position to use our scale for good to continue to address this challenge," Keith Kenny, McDonald's global vice president, sustainability, said in the announcement. "We are excited to partner with our beef supply chain around the world to accelerate the responsible use of antibiotics, whilst continuing to look after the health and welfare of those animals in our supply chain.

Specifically, McDonald's said the first step is "to measure and understand current usage of antibiotics" across its massive beef supplier network. The brand then explains that, by the end of 2020, it should have enough grasp on the situation to finalize its reduction targets. Yes, it's a slightly ambiguous timeline, but McDonald's also promises that, by 2022, the company "will be reporting progress against antibiotic reduction targets across our top 10 beef sourcing markets." So even though no firm reduction goal is set yet, the chain has established a self-imposed deadline on when consumers will at least start seeing some numbers.

Meanwhile, MickeyD's reminds us this new policy isn't the company's first foray into axing antibiotics. The brand first launched a responsible antibiotics use position in 2003 and says it has already hit some of those benchmarks. "In 2016, McDonald's USA reached its commitment to serve only chicken not treated with antibiotics important to human medicine, nearly one year ahead of schedule," the company writes.

As one final commitment, McDonald's also announced that it had joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge, described as "a yearlong effort to accelerate the fight against antimicrobial resistance across the globe."

McDonald's is far from the only chain taking up this cause. Other big names that have updated their antibiotics policies in recent years include the likes of Burger King, Popeyes, Panera, and Chipotle — just to name a few. But probably no other brand out there is as recognizable as McDonald's, so what the Golden Arches does is still a big deal.

Advertisement