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What McDonald’s move means to you

So what exactly does McDonald’s big news mean anyway?

The fast food giant announced Wednesday it will begin using only chickens that have been raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine.

McDonald’s has given its suppliers two years to move away from the practice, which has raised many health concerns by the government and consumers. The reason these antibiotics are used is to make animals grow faster. Since they are the same antibiotics given to people, what’s happened is we’re seeing more bacteria that are resistant to these medicines, making it more difficult to combat them. Almost every type of bacteria has gotten stronger and less resistant to antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Not good.  (Poultry suppliers still can use ionophores, a type of antibiotic not used for humans, to treat illness.)

While I want to say — like the old woman in that classic commercial — “Where’s the beef?” (and pork, for that matter), this is a positive move. (But certainly the company should start thinking — if it isn’t already — of  moving toward beef and pork that is as antibiotic-free as the chickens it will be using.)

McDonald’s move should make other restaurant chains take a similar stance, although actually the company is a bit behind the trend. Wendy’s and Burger King say their policies don’t allow the use of antibiotics for growth, according to a New York Times story. Chik-fil-A said last year it was switching to all antibiotic-free birds within five years. At Chipotle, using antibiotic-free meat and poultry has been the company’s policy.

Calling this  “excellent news for consumers,” Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in a statement issued Wednesday: “This move should have major reverberations throughout the meat and poultry industry.”

I think we’ll be seeing a domino effect here. With some 14,000 of its restaurants across the country, McDonald’s is a major purchaser of poultry. If it is saying no to antibiotics, suppliers will feel the need  to comply or lose a major customer. That’ll make more antibiotic-free birds available in grocery stores, and since that’ll be a selling point, companies will note that on the label. Then those birds still with antibiotics will get customers wondering why they’d choose a bird with these drugs anyway. Maybe I said that a little simplistically, but you get my drift.

McDonald’s also announced that it will begin offering milk jugs of low-fat white milk and fat-free chocolate milk from cows that are not treated with rbST, an artificial growth hormone. Consumers have been very vocal about their opposition to growth hormones in milk. Another positive move.

This does not mean McDonald’s is now health food. Still not a good idea to eat it or any other fast food daily.

But now, if McDonald’s and all the other fast food giants could start figuring out how to get rid of the added sugar in their selections, I’d be a happy camper.