McDonald's announced today it will begin only sourcing chickens raised without medically important antibiotics in the U.S. When a juggernaut like McDonald's makes such decisions, the food world listens—and sourcing only antibiotic-free chicken is a big deal.

For decades, poultry farmers have routinely used low doses of antibiotics to help chickens gain weight. The antibiotics are often the same ones used to treat infections in humans. This practice has since been linked to antibiotic resistance, which can spread from farms out into to the general population.

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As usual with all things disease related, science reporter Maryn McKenna does an excellent job of laying the nuances of the news. McDonald's move, which will happen in the next two years, is undoubtedly a net good. But McDonald's is a global corporation, and this change applies only to the U.S., where consumers and regulators have been exerting pressure. The FDA is currently in the middle of asking for a voluntary ban on antibiotic use in livestock. The announcement today also does not affect cows or pigs.

For more details about how the McDonald's new sourcing guidelines will work—and why one type of antibiotics is excluded—read McKenna's piece at Wired.

As the country's largest food-service buyer of chickens, McDonald's is in an unique position to affect our food supply. Historically, it's made potato farmers into billionaires. The control that fast food companies exert of our food supply has arguably made many things worse—this is one step toward making it better. [Wired]

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Top image: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee