The fast food chain said it had been working closely with farmers for years, in order to reduce the overuse of antibiotics in the poultry supply chain, and the new policy supported its new Global Vision for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Food Animals – launched earlier this week.
The policy will be rolled out to McDonald’s US suppliers over the next two years. However, it will only relate to the use of antibiotics important to human medicine, and will not cover ionophores – a type of antibiotic not used for humans that helps keep chickens healthy, it said.
Mike Andres, president McDonald’s USA, said: "Our customers want food that they feel great about eating – all the way from the farm to the restaurant – and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations."
Marion Gross, senior vice-president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain, added: "McDonald’s believes that any animals that become ill deserve appropriate veterinary care and our suppliers will continue to treat poultry with prescribed antibiotics, and then they will no longer be included in our food supply."
Friends of the Earth (FOE), which welcomed the move, has been in discussions with the company on this particular issue for the past seven months. However, it encouraged the firm to include other livestock in its proposals.
Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at FOE, said: "We are pleased to see McDonald’s take this important step in antibiotic restriction that helps fill the void left by the FDA’s (US Food and Drug Administration) failed policies.
"We hope McDonald’s announcement will continue a race to the top among restaurant chains, which we call on to quickly adopt plans to restrict antibiotic use in their supply chains. We also hope this plan will convince the livestock industry to stop its misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture; which has been a key contributor to antibiotic resistance."
The campaign group believes the FDA’s voluntary proposals to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock will see little success, with usage up 16% between 2009 and 2012.
"While McDonald’s focus on poultry is a positive step forward, we look forward to a dramatic reduction of antibiotic use across the board, by focusing on improvements in their pork and beef suppliers’ management practices," added Hamerschlag.
McDonald’s USA has also been announced as a founding member of the newly-formed US Roundtable on Sustainable Beef.