The burger giant plans to have many of its major markets free of chicken treated with same-as-human antibiotics by 2027.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 27, 2017
mcdonalds antibiotic free chicken
Credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images

Pledging to eliminate antibiotic use in chicken has been a popular trend in 2017 with a number of major brands jumping on board. In May, poultry producer Tyson Foods announced it will cut the use of all antibiotics by the end of the year after phasing out same-as-human antibiotics in 2015, joining brands like Perdue Farms and Pilgrim's Pride which have made similar promises. And in June, Burger King and Popeyes became the latest chain restaurants cutting antibiotic use in chicken, joining other major fast food brands like KFC and Subway.

Meanwhile, McDonald's, which had already pledged to cut antibiotic use in its chicken in the U.S., has decided to take that pledge to markets around the globe, furthering its commitment "to preserve antibiotic effectiveness in the future through ethical practices today." In an updated statement on antibiotic use released today, the burger chain laid out its timetable for "implementing a new broiler chicken antibiotics policy in markets around the world."

By January of next year, antibiotics defined by the World Health Organization as Highest Priority Critically Important (HPCIA) to human medicine will be phased out in Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the vast majority of Europe. By the end of 2019, that policy will be extended to Australia and Russia. And by January 2027, HPCIAs will be eliminated in China as well. McDonald's also points out that since 2016, the fast food brand has already axed broiler chicken treated with these types of antibiotics from all its U.S. restaurants "nearly a year ahead of schedule."

As Consumerist points out, even though this is a positive step forward, chicken is only part of McDonald's burger-focused menu. The company says that moving to drug-free beef is also a priority, but due to the amount of time it takes to raise cattle as opposed to chicken (years instead of weeks), hammering out an effective timeline for reducing antibiotic use in the production of beef is a trickier proposition. Still, the brand said it plans to release this timeline eventually and hopefully turn 85 percent of its beef supply antibiotic-free in the process.