5 On Your Side

Consumer concerns drive restaurants to drop meats raised with antibiotics

Posted December 13, 2017 11:24 a.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2017 6:08 p.m. EST

As concern about the use of antibiotics in food rises, a handful of fast food restaurants have pledged to limit or eliminate the drugs in the production of the meat and poultry they serve.

More than half of the 25 largest restaurants now have a policy on antibiotics, nearly triple what it was just three years ago, according to Consumer Reports. Those antibiotics can help treat sick animals, but they're often overused to prevent disease and boost growth.

"Overuse is a really big threat to public health," said Julia Calderone, the magazine's health editor." It can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and that can make infections in humans really difficult to treat."

All of the progress at chain restaurants, though, is due to changes in chicken policies. Pork and beef raised without antibiotics are still rare.

Both Panera Bread and Chipotle raise nearly all of their meat and poultry without antibiotics, according to Consumer Reports. Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, Subway and Wendy's earned B and C grades from the magazine.

KFC improved with a B- and McDonald's earned a C+ grade.

KFC has previously said it's committed to serving chicken raised without antibiotics, but those changes won't be implemented for a while, according to Consumer Reports. All of the chicken served at McDonald's is now antibiotic-free, but the company has not make progress with its beef and pork.

"We're definitely noticing a shift," Calderon said. "Consumers are becoming more aware of the potential dangers of overusing antibiotics."

Some big restaurants slower to make the shift — Burger King, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, among others — earned D grades from Consumer Reports.

The magazine said 11 restaurant chains, including Applebee's, Chili's, Dairy Queen and Olive Garden, failed completely for having no policies at all.

Numerous smaller chains are making progress, too. For example, all of the chicken served at Dickey's BBQ is free of antibiotics, as is all of the beef, pork and poultry served at Cheesecake Factory.