Peer pressure is a bitch.
KFC recently announced that its suppliers will stop giving chickens antibiotics that are
important to human health by the end of 2018. This is thanks to concerns about antibiotic resistance—but probably also because of industry pressure and lobbying from groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Reuters notes that KFC is the last of the three "big chicken" restaurants to make this pledge, behind McDonald's and Chick-fil-A, which actually promised to eliminate all antibiotics, not just ones used in humans.
About 70 percent of antibiotics important for treating infections in people are sold for use in meat and dairy production, and these drugs are sometimes given to livestock and poultry to increase growth and prevent infection, rather than treat it. Overusing antibiotics can lead to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, which can kill people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that at least 23,000 Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections.
Cutting down on these drugs sadly doesn't make fried chicken any healthier for you, but it's a step in the fight against antibiotic resistance. So thanks for that, KFC. (Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms have also pledged to stop using medically important antibiotics.)
Here's who has also promised to nix either medically important antibiotics, or all antibiotics, aka an antibiotic stewardship program:
Chipotle: antibiotic-free since at least 2000, although their UK pork suppliers can use antibiotics therapeutically
McDonald's: chicken only; completed as of August 2016
Chick-fil-A: by the end of 2019
KFC: by the end of 2018
Panera: chicken has been antibiotic-free since 2003; turkey and pork on sandwiches and salads are raised without antibiotics
Subway: all meat by 2025
Starbucks: chicken by the end of 2020
Taco Bell: chicken only; completed as of March 2017
Wendy's: chicken only; by end of 2017
In the interest of peer pressure, here's a list of other popular chains have yet to get with the program.
Arby's: buried in a Corporate Social Responsibility statement is a sentence claiming that the chain will begin transitioning its chicken in 2017; no other details provided
Burger King: only pledged to cut "critically important" antibiotics in chicken, not all medically important ones
Dunkin' Donuts: allows routine use of antibiotics for disease prevention but not for growth
Popeye's: no policy but they were recently purchased by Burger King so that could change; see above
Sonic (no public policy as of September 2016 per the NRDC)