The Controversial Reason McDonald's And Walmart's Beef Suppliers Are Being Criticized

Correction 11/23/2022: A previous version of this article stated that Taco Bell did not issue any public comment following claims that it sourced beef from suppliers that use antibiotics. Taco Bell told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2019 that it had plans to reduce antibiotic use by 25% by 2025.

If fast-food restaurants and supermarkets share one thing in common, it can be easy to be suspicious about the quality of their food. While it's true you're not exactly getting a cut of imported Wagyu beef for what you pay at McDonald's or Walmart, it doesn't mean that the beef you're getting from is in any way bad, right?

Walmart and McDonald's do go to great lengths to convince people that the meat they're purchasing, be it ground beef or hamburger patty, is only pure ground beef. Walmart announced in August 2022 that it would begin collaboration with Sustainable Beef LLC as part of a plan to bring high-quality beef to consumers while maintaining a sustainable and healthy supply cycle, per Walmart. McDonald's has gone on record to promise its customers that "every patty is 100% real beef with no fillers, additives or preservatives," and not made of some kind of grotesque pink slime churned out in a factory. Customers want to know more about what kind of beef it is, who produces it, and how fresh it is.

But for all of these promises, it seems that both the king of bulk shopping and the baron of Big Macs have once again found themselves under fire for their supposedly "pure" ground beef products.

Antibiotics are behind this red meat scare

The use of antibiotics is something of a hot-button issue in the meat industry. According to the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, antibiotics are mainly used for "rapid growth promotion in livestock and poultry and to prevent illness in animals living in cramped and unhealthy conditions." While the idea of healthier animals may not sound all that terrible, the overuse of such medicine can have serious health consequences, as Walmart, Taco Bell, and McDonald's are currently experiencing.

According to The Guardian, beef suppliers to these three businesses have reportedly been using antibiotics linked to "superbugs," or strains of bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics and other conventional treatments. But how exactly can something that promotes healthy growth somehow cause sickness? Although these antibodies may kill off most bacteria, those that do survive adapt and become resistant to even these incredibly powerful antibodies, leading to the creation of so-called "superbugs."

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism tells us that while Walmart has not responded to any comments on these claims, McDonald's is reported to have made a statement in which it claims it will "establish market-appropriate targets for use of medically important antibiotics — as defined by the WHO — in our beef supply chain." Taco Bell also reportedly confirmed to the Bureau in 2019 that it planned to "require its US and Canada suppliers to restrict antibiotics important to human health in beef supply chain by 25% by 2025".

While the problem isn't with McDonald's or Walmart alone, one can hope this issue is resolved quickly.