McDonalds has set targets for responsible antibiotic use in the countries that supply most of its beef after criticism that it was backtracking on a commitment to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics in its beef supply chain.
"Our antibiotic use policies do not permit the routine use of medically important antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion or the habitual use of antibiotics for disease prevention," says McDonald's policy.
McDonald's policy continues "Our focus is on refining antibiotic selection and administration, reducing non-therapeutic antibiotic use, and, when possible, replacing antibiotics with long-term solutions to proactively prevent disease and protect animal health and welfare."
Stewardship advocates and public health experts, along with the WHO, warn that widespread use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals, particularly the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and routine disease prevention, is contributing to rising rates of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). They also argue that antibiotics are used to cover for practices that increase the risk of infection and endanger animal health.
That's why the announcement from McDonald's—one of the world's largest purchasers of beef—was so welcome. But 2020 passed with no news about those reduction targets, a delay the company said was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2022, a coalition of public interest, animal welfare, and environmental groups sent a petition to McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski urging the company to fulfill its pledge. In July, they criticized the company for backtracking on its commitment.
The targets for responsible antibiotic use in the updated policy apply to beef and dairy cattle suppliers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The company says the targets are market-specific, not producer-specific, and that adjustments to the policy will be made over time.
Sources: Chris Dall, MA