Chick-fil-A Makes Updates to Its Chicken Policy, Adjusting ‘No Antibiotic’ Standards

Chick-fil-A Makes Updates to Its Chicken Policy, Adjusting ‘No Antibiotic’ Standards

The fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A said on Monday that it would shift its policy that had barred serving chicken treated with any antibiotics and serve chicken treated only with animal antibiotics.

The old policy was known as No Antibiotics Ever and barred the use of antibiotics used to treat people and animals. The new one, which is known as No Antibiotics Important to Human Medicine, is expected to go into effect in the spring.

The previous policy meant that no antibiotics of any kind were given to animals. The new approach bars the use of antibiotics used to treat people but does allow the use of animal antibiotics if the animal and those around it are sick.

The company’s previous far-reaching ban was announced a decade ago and fully implemented roughly five years ago.

Chick-fil-A’s policy change came in part because of the difficulty in obtaining large amounts of antibiotic-free chicken, the company said.

“As we looked to the future, the availability of high-quality chicken that meets our rigid standards became a concern,” a Chick-fil-A spokesman said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A sold more than half a billion chicken sandwiches in 2022, according to QSR magazine, which covers the quick-service and fast-casual restaurant industries.

Tyson Foods, which processes about 20 percent of all chicken in the United States, made a similar decision last summer, dropping a “no antibiotics ever” label.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that antibiotics are used in chicken to “prevent disease and increase feed efficiency”: in other words, fatten the birds up.

There is no grave concern about antibiotics in chicken causing direct harm to a person who consumes them. But eating chicken treated with antibiotics could help promote drug-resistant bacteria, meaning an infection in a person might not respond to antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.

A Food and Drug Administration analysis of antibiotics used in animal feed found that the majority of them likely contributed to the growing problem of treatment-resistant bacterial infections in people.

Federal scientists studied 30 penicillin and tetracycline additives in animal feed and found more than half posed a high risk of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through food, according to documents gained through public records requests by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2014.

In the last decade or so, the United States has cracked down on the use of antibiotics in meat, though avoided banning them entirely. Laws currently require farmers to wait until antibiotics are out of animals’ systems before slaughtering them.

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