McDonald’s recently announced its intention to phase out the use of chicken raised with antibiotics from their 14,000 US stores within two years. They are not the first company to make their product more sustainable; they are not even the first fast-food company to make this shift. What makes this announcement especially exciting is the impact that this decision will have on the entire industry.
Consumer groups, such as Meat Without Drugs and Consumers Union, health organizations, and individuals have been pushing for years for companies to stop using antibiotics in their food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other public health organizations have warned that the misuse of antibiotics on healthy livestock is making these medications less effective for treating disease in people. Whether concerned about the over use of antibiotics and its correlation to the creation of “superbugs”, or worried about the long term affects on human growth patterns, food with antibiotics has been a hot button issue. This type of consumer concern has led to rapid growth in the production and sale of sustainable foods from smaller chain restaurants and local artisanal eateries. For some examples of local eateries see the list below! However, the small size of these types of businesses means they lack the clout to make a noticeable impact on the supply chain.
When it comes to making sustainable purchasing cost-effective and impactful, size matters! Selling an estimated 1.5 billion McNuggets annually, McDonald’s has some real leverage to move poultry suppliers from using antibiotics to using more sustainable methods. If McDonald’s successfully negotiates this transition, opinions are that antibiotic free chicken will start popping up everywhere. According to Jonathan Kaplan, the Natural Resource Defense Council’s food and agriculture program director “This may be a tipping point for antibiotic use in the poultry industry, McDonald’s has so much purchasing power and brand recognition, I think we’re seeing a new industry standard here”.
McDonald’s is a great example of the Reeve Consulting message on the importance of harnessing your supply chain for positive social and environmental impact. With its size alone, McDonald’s has the potential to dramatically shift the fast food industry supply chains! If this transition is as successful as we all hope it will be, we can expect to see McDonald’s continue to roll out more sustainability initiatives across the value chain!
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