McDonald's announced earlier this year that it would soon use only antibiotic-free chicken because consumers were demanding it, and it seemed like the push to curb the overuse of antibiotics in animals raised for meat was working. A new report called Chain Reaction paints a less rosy picture.
The problem with sourcing meat from animals that have been given antibiotics, whether they're sick or not, is that as we consume more of this meat, we are harming our ability to respond to antibiotics. Seven strains of bacteria are now somewhat or completely resistant to antibiotics, according to The World Health Organization. Many diseases are becoming more difficult to treat.
If that burger in the photo above came from any of the restaurants graded in the report, there's an excellent chance that the beef contains antibiotics. Take a look at the report card below prepared by Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council , Consumers Union, Food Animal Concerns Trust , Keep Antibiotics Working and Center for Food Safety .
This report card is a little heavy on the F's, don't you think? (Photo: Friends of the Earth)
Of the 25 restaurants reviewed in the study, only five of them didn't fail. I'm a little surprised to see Starbucks get an F. The company seems to continually make environmentally friendly strides, but apparently not in the area of sourcing its meats. If you want to avoid antibiotics in your meats while grabbing a quick meal, are there any options?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. You just need to head to one of the smaller, regional restaurants that get honorable mentions in the report. Two of the restaurants that I choose to take my family to when we want burgers got honorable mentions: Shake Shack, which sources antibiotic-free meats, and Elevation Burger, which sources organic meats. One national chain, Carl's Jr, also got an honorable mention for being the first national chain to add a "burger to its menu that is reportedly grass-fed and free from antibiotics, hormones and steroids." Other honorable mentions include BurgerFi, Burgerville, BGR, Farmer Boys, Pret A Manger and Good Times Burger.
Fast-food and fast-casual restaurants are pledging to do better in many areas. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have announced that they are cutting artificial ingredients. Burger King recently took soda off the official kids' menu. Chipotle and Panera are both leading the pack in removing unwanted ingredients. There's a long way to go, though. For now, especially when it comes to burgers, skip most of the big guys and support the regional chains that are doing better in this area.