McDonald’s is aiming to lessen the use of medically important antibiotics in the cattle supplying its beef, but many specifics of the restaurant chain’s plan are still up in the air.
McDonald’s plans to partner “with supplying beef producers … to measure and understand current usage of antibiotics across a diverse, global supply chain.” That examination will then lead to reduction targets to be set by the end of 2020, and reporting progress on those goals will begin in 2022. Overall, McDonald’s plans to implement this plan across its top 10 markets, which cover about 85 percent of the company’s global beef supply chain.
While the reduction targets are still to be set, there is some clarity on the kind of treatment the company is looking to phase out.
McDonald’s says a list of medically important antibiotics as determined by the World Health Organization will no longer be permitted for the purpose of growth promotion in food-producing animals. Routine use of those antibiotics will also not be permitted for disease prevention. Non-routine use could be permitted based “upon the determination of a qualified veterinarian familiar with the disease history in the herd.”
McDonald’s announced the move on its website, which also includes a handful of statements praising the move. Lance Price, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, said he hopes “the entire beef industry will follow McDonald’s leadership.”
Karin Hoelzer, a senior officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said efforts like the one undertaken by McDonald’s “are essential to slowing the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria and preserving the effectiveness of these lifesaving drugs.”
A statement from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association did not reference the McDonald’s policy, but noted producer efforts to continuously improve “the way antibiotics are used in animals” because of a care for animals as well as antibiotic safety and efficacy. The beef industry, the organization said “promotes the judicious use of antibiotics to minimize the potential risk of developing antibiotic resistant bacteria.”
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