WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 12, 2014 -- Chick-fil-A said its nearly 1,800 restaurants will be serving chicken raised without antibiotics within the next five years.

The move is a response to public concerns that overuse of antibiotics by the meat industry on healthy animals is making the medications less effective for treating disease in humans.

“Since our family business began nearly 67 years ago, we have focused on our customers – it’s why we insist on using the highest quality ingredients,” Dan Cathy, the company president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “We want to continue the heritage, and offering antibiotic-free chicken is the next step.”

The company said it’s working with suppliers to make sure it will have enough product to meet its needs. It is also asking poultry companies to coordinate with USDA to make sure no antibiotics are administered to chickens at any point before processing. And it promised to issue quarterly reports on its website starting in 2015 to keep customers informed on its progress.

Chick-fil-A’s announcement drew immediate praise from consumer groups including Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.

“Chick-fil-A deserves credit for taking this important step to protect public health,’’ Jean Halloran, Consumer Union’s director of food policy initiatives, said in a statement. “We need to stop wasting these critical medications on healthy livestock.” Halloran also urged other restaurants and food retailers including Trader Joe’s to take similar action.

About 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on animals like cows, pigs and chickens, not because they are sick and need medicine, but to make them grow faster and without complications. Consumers Union said while public health campaigns have helped to reduce the use of antibiotics in humans, their use in livestock is increasing.

Other food companies have taken actions similar to Chick-fil-A. Chipotle and Panera Bread have made commitments to serve antibiotic-free meat. Only one national grocery chain – Whole Foods – is selling meat from animals raised without antibiotics, Consumers Union said.

Last year, Chick-fil-A announced that it had removed yellow dye from its chicken soup and that it was testing the removal of high-fructose corn syrup from all of its dressings and sauces. In 2008, it removed trans fat from all of its menu items and condiments.


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