McDonald’s USA today announced new menu sourcing initiatives including only sourcing chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine.

Public domain image/Dino17
Public domain image/Dino17

In addition, McDonald’s U.S. restaurants will also offer customers milk jugs of low-fat white milk and fat-free chocolate milk from cows that are not treated with rbST, an artificial growth hormone.

Steve Easterbrook began as CEO of McDonald’s on Monday, and brings to the role a legacy of healthier food and environmental initiatives within the company’s United Kingdom division.

“Our customers want food that they feel great about eating — all the way from the farm to the restaurant — and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations,” said McDonald’s U.S President Mike Andres.

Jonathan Kaplan, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC)Food and Agriculture program, issued the following statement:

“This is a landmark announcement in the fight to keep life-saving antibiotics working for us and our children. The country’s largest fast food chain has committed to working with their suppliers to keep these drugs out of the barns used to raise the chickens for their nuggets, salads and sandwiches. In doing so, they are setting the bar for the entire fast food industry. If these are verifiable, given this company’s massive purchasing power and iconic brand, we may be at a tipping point for better antibiotic stewardship in the poultry industry.

“Hopefully, chicken is just the start – the Big Mac and McRib may be next. McDonald’s ‘Global Vision’ statement acknowledges the need to curb antibiotics use across their pork and beef supply chains too. Unfortunately, the statement does not include a ban on the use of all medically-important antibiotics in routine disease prevention, a practice known to contribute to antibiotic resistance. We urge McDonald’s to close this loophole in their ‘Global Vision’ statement, and to apply their new U.S. chicken antibiotics curbs to all their restaurants globally.

“We look forward to working with McDonald’s on a clear path to global leadership in making healthier, more responsibly-produced meat and poultry available to millions of customers around the world.”

“McDonald’s believes that any animals that become ill deserve appropriate veterinary care and our suppliers will continue to treat poultry with prescribed antibiotics, and then they will no longer be included in our food supply,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain.

While McDonald’s will only source chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, the farmers who supply chicken for its menu will continue to responsibly use ionophores, a type of antibiotic not used for humans that helps keep chickens healthy.

“If fewer chickens get sick, then fewer chickens need to be treated with antibiotics that are important in human medicine. We believe this is an essential balance,” Gross added.