McDonald's Anti-Biotic Free Chickens Pledge Is Healthy Trendsetter

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McDonald's plays catchup with Shake Shack and Chipotle

McDonald’s recently announced its plan to phase out the sale of antibiotic treated chicken over the next two years.

When one of the largest food chains makes a decision like this, it has the power to change the entire food industry.

As one of the biggest buyers of chicken in the US, McDonald’s decision will have an immense impact on chicken suppliers. As stated by Caroline Smith DeWaal, Safety Director from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “This move should have major reverberations throughout the meat and poultry industry. Major suppliers such as Tyson and Perdue have made similar commitments.”

The global giant is setting a new standard that others will soon follow. As Maryn McKenna, a journalist for Wired, stated in her interview with NPR, “This is really a big deal. And anytime you talk about something that McDonald's does, it means that it's a buyer really at the top of the market. And it's therefore very likely that whatever they do is going to set a model.”

Just a few weeks after McDonald’s announcement, Costco, the third largest food retailer in the US, also pledged to phase out its sale of food products treated with antibiotics. It would not be surprising if in the coming weeks or months, other companies in the food industry will follow suit.

So why the change now? Well, McDonald’s has been out of touch with today’s consumers for quite some time. The company is currently going through its worst slump in more than a decade and has seen worldwide sales decline for the past nine months. The company’s new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, has been tasked with fixing this troubled brand.

“Consumer needs and preferences have changed, and McDonald's current performance reflects the urgent need to evolve with today's consumers, reset strategic priorities and restore business momentum,” said McDonald’s in a statement.

Today’s consumers want to know where their food comes from and what is going into it. This is the age of cruelty-free, hormone-free, cage-free, all organic food practices, and when it comes to McDonald’s food, consumers are not “lovin’ it.”

In contrast, fast-casual restaurants Shake Shack and Chipotle have been winning the hearts and wallets of a growing number of Americans who are willing to pay extra money for high quality food and more ethical food options. Their sustainable practices have been paying off. In 2014, Chipotle opened 192 new locations and celebrated a sales increase of 17%. Meanwhile, Shake Shack has garnered quite the following and has tripled its store count in only two years.

McDonald’s move may be the first of many to try to reconnect with customers, and in doing so, it may be starting a national trend. Because if this global giant can make the commitment to support more ethical, sustainable food practices, other companies in the food industry better jump on the bandwagon or risk falling behind.


Michelle Mar is a journalist based out of Southern California. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a BA in Sociology and a BA in Political Science. She specializes in writing about criminal justice, current events, and social issues. Follow her on Twitter @msmichellemar.  

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