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Top Fast Food Chains Are Limiting Antibiotic Use in Chicken, but Not in Pork and Beef

An annual report shows which top fast food chains use the most antibiotics in their meat
burger
Fedorovacz / shutterstock.com

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. The overuse of these drugs in animal agriculture has become a serious health concern to the public — so consumers are asking restaurants to reduce its use in menu items. Every year since 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council has rated the top 25 fast and fast-casual restaurant chains in the United States based on their antibiotics practices. The results are published in a report called “Chain Reaction.”

Fourteen of the top 25 companies addressed in the report — which account for two-thirds of all fast-food industry revenue — have taken at least some steps to limit use of antibiotics. They all received passing grades, up from just nine last year, and five the year before.

However, this progress has mostly occurred in chicken products. Most chains have not significantly reduced the presence of antibiotics in beef and pork products. Only two companies, Panera Bread and Chipotle —both of which received an “A” rating — currently serve pork, beef, and chicken raised without antibiotics. Subway follows close behind with a “B+,” as its red meats are not completely antibiotic-free.

“When it comes to chicken nuggets, we’ve seen incredible change in a few short years — but burgers and bacon are another story,” food policy advocate and Chain Reaction co-author Lena Brook told the Los Angeles Times.

KFC improved from an “F” to a “B-” as a result of promising to transition its entire product line to antibiotic-free by the end of 2018. Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s range from “B” to “C,” and Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, Jack in the Box, and Papa John’s all earned a “D.” Restaurants that made no effort to change received a failing grade, including Dairy Queen, Sonic, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Domino’s Pizza, Chili’s, Little Caesars, Arby’s, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, and Buffalo Wild Wings.

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