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Wendy’s Eases Into Antibiotic-Free Chicken

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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Fast food chains are starting to just say no to antibiotic-laced chicken. Last year, Chick fil-A and McDonald’s announced plans to phase out chickens raised with antibiotics. Chipotle and Panera Bread have also gone antibiotic-free when it comes to chickens. Wendy’s is now slowly going the same route, with an emphasis on the slowly.

Wendy’s is testing antibiotic-free chicken products in a few markets, CNBC reports. The four tests markets are in Orlando and Gainesville, Florida, Kansas City, Missouri, and Austin, Texas, where grilled chicken that is antibiotic-free will be sold. According to CNBC, Wendy’s will “gauge consumer perception and supply availability.”

Wendy’s antibiotic use guidelines don’t recommend or advocate going antibiotic-free. Instead, they advocate the “responsible use of antibiotics to maintain animal health and well-being, or to alleviate suffering due to disease.” However, they do have a few caveats. Antibiotics should only be used “to supplement good animal husbandry practices,” the guidelines stipulate. And they should only be administered to animals by “licensed veterinarians that have met all training and certification requirements.”

Wendy’s antibiotic use guidelines also recommend that the overall antibiotic use in farm animals be reduced, “especially when the class of antibiotics used is both a human and food animal medicine.” The use of alternative therapies is suggested to treat farm animals “whenever possible.”

Why antibiotic use among farm animals is harming humans


Most antibiotics used in the U.S. are used on farm animals, including chickens. A whopping 80 percent of all antibiotic use is on farm animals. Most antibiotics are given to animals that are healthy, according to the Natural Resources Defenses Council (NRDC). They are mixed into the food and water given to farm animals on a routine basis.

Routinely giving antibiotics to healthy farm animals is a big problem. The antibiotics kill off weak bacteria, and that “creates the perfect environment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to multiply and thrive,” the NRDC explains. In a 2013 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that “up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.”

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including antibiotic resistance, is a growing threat. The World Health Organization characterizes AMR as “an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.” The WHO cites the “inappropriate use of antimicrobial drugs, including in animal husbandry” as contributing to the rise of AMR.

Image credit: Flickr/Mike Mozart

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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