The US’s largest fast food chicken retailer, Chick-fil-A, has announced plans to only sell chicken raised without antibiotics at all of its stores within five years.
The Atlanta-based chain said it's working with suppliers to build up an adequate supply for its nearly 1,800 restaurants. It is asking suppliers to work with the US Department of Agriculture to verify that no antibiotics are administered on the chickens at any point.
"A shift this significant will take some time, as it requires changes along every point of the supply chain – from the hatchery to the processing plant. Our suppliers are committed, and we pledge to have this conversion complete within five years or sooner based on supply chain readiness," said Tim Tassopoulos, executive vice president of operations of Chick-fil-A. He added, "Because this will take some time, we will begin posting quarterly updates on our website in 2015 after our initial phase-in. We want to make it easy for customers to monitor our progress."
"This is a business decision made by Chick-fil-A in response to consumer demand," said Ashley Peterson, National Chicken Council vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs in response to the announcement.
"Many of our members offer antibiotic-free poultry lines to provide a choice in the marketplace for consumers. We're proud of our industry and how we produce a wide range of food for a wide range of consumers.
"All chicken production systems, including organic, raised without antibiotics and traditional methods, address issues as necessary to achieve its primary objective – the commitment to provide consumers with safe, wholesome and affordable food. The chicken industry works diligently to ensure that no matter which production system they choose to support with their food dollars, consumers can have confidence in the safety and nutrition of all of their chicken purchases. The amazing variety of choice today allows consumers to choose products that take into account many factors, including taste preference, personal values and affordability.
"Antibiotics are not always used in chicken production; rather, they are administered to prevent and treat disease, only under the care of a licensed veterinarian. The science shows that responsible and judicious use of FDA-approved antibiotics to treat and prevent disease in livestock and poultry is both safe and effective," concluded Peterson.