McDonald’s* Moo-ves on from Routine Antibiotic Use in Beef

McDonald’s made its meals happier this week by announcing the formal adoption of a policy to restrict medically important antibiotic use in its beef supply chain. McDonald’s will begin by monitoring antibiotic use in its top ten beef sourcing markets across the globe and use that data to set reduction targets for reducing on-farm medically important antibiotic use by the end of 2020.

This is big news. McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of beef in the world, so this commitment could have ramifications across the restaurant and beef production industries.

The importance of this development is underscored by a recent study suggesting that the medical community may have significantly underestimated the impact of antibiotic resistance on human health. The Washington University report found that antibiotic resistance may be responsible for as many as 150,000 premature deaths annually in the U.S., much greater than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimate of 23,000 per year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both indicated that the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria is a significant human health threat that is in large part driven by the excessive use of medically important antibiotics for disease prevention in farm animals.

The announcement comes on the heels of a multi-year campaign by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. In 2018, Green Century provided direct support to the U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s campaign, Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics, to support widespread consumer petition gathering and the production of the fourth installment of the Chain Reaction Report.

McDonald’s is not often viewed as a leader in corporate responsibility, given its uneven history, but in recent years it has emerged as a corporate leader on a number of environmental and public health issues:

• In 2018, McDonald’s become the first global restaurant company to set a Science Based Target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the recommendations of the Paris Climate Agreement.

• In 2015, McDonald’s announced its intention to achieve a company-wide, no-deforestation commitment, covering all supply chains, by 2030. Meanwhile, the company is actively working to reach no-deforestation in its priority supply chains – beef, chicken (including soy in feed), palm oil, coffee, and the fiber used in customer packaging – by 2020.

• McDonald’s has a goal for all packaging to be 100% renewable, recycled, or certified sustainable by 2025. It also plans to expand recycling efforts of its packaging materials to every McDonald’s restaurant around the globe.

With this latest commitment surrounding antibiotic use in beef, McDonald’s continues to redefine its approach to corporate responsibility, representing a win for the company, its shareholders, and public health.

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*As of September 30, 2018, McDonald’s Corporation comprised 0.00%, 1.16%, and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund, the Green Century Equity Fund, and the Green Century International Index Fund, respectively. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.

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