Sidney Fry
March 17, 2015

McDonald's, the world’s largest restaurant chain, has agreed to phase out the use of chicken fed with human antibiotics over the next 2 years. This is big news, guys. McDonald's is a powerhouse. They’re the biggest seller of chicken in the United States, meaning they’re one of the largest purchasers of chicken. So when McDonalds says no human antibiotics (they can still use animal antibiotics necessary for health reasons), they influence the entire chicken industry. This requires processors to change how their chickens are raised.

For 60 years, chicken suppliers like Tyson and Perdue have been adding human antibiotics to their animal food and water so that the animals will grow faster on smaller amounts of feed. Faster growth, bigger chickens, less feed. And the result? More chicken = more profits.

What do those antibiotics do to us? Nothing beneficial, that’s for sure. Unless you’re one of the ones reaping the profits. Which I am not.

Ok, you may say… I don’t eat at McDonalds. That’s fine, and this change may not exactly cause you to start, either. But it’s an important step in the corporate food chain. I’d like to think it means that the Golden Arches are actually starting to listen to both the consumer as well as the health industry.

So look at the big picture: Other food corporations like Costco Wholesale are immediately following suit. Costco sells 80 million rotisserie chickens a year. That’s 160 million chicken breasts. Whoa! KFC is getting big pressure, too. Burger King just dropped soft drinks off the kid’s menu (another issue entirely, but progress none the less). Insert clapping emoji here.

This change is good, but it still won’t make chicken the healthiest choice on the menu. The Grilled Chicken Clubhouse (grilled = healthy, right?) has 590 calories and 1560mg sodium. That’s more than the Big Mac, with 530 calories and 960mg. You’re better off with the the Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken for 320 calories and 740mg sodium.

The human-antibiotic-free chicken may be cleaner, but that doesn't necessarily make it better nutritionally. It's likely not going to get cheaper, either. I’m curious as to how this will affect the price of chicken on the menu. This decision by McDonald’s will certainly add to costs of production in the chicken industry – as much as 3% according to Reuters. Will McDonald’s pass some of that cost increase on to its customers, or keep prices at a competitive level? Time will tell.

Here’s the question though… Does it change your view of McDonalds? Will you be running out the door (in 2ish years…) to grab a 6-pack of chicken nuggets? Let us know what you think!

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