Chick-fil-A will switch to antibiotic-free chicken -- but in five years?

The fast-food chain said it will use chickens raised without antibiotics in its restaurants, but that it will take the company five years to do so.

Chick-fil-A, the fast food chain known for its fried chicken sandwiches, announced Tuesday that it would switch to antibiotic-free chicken. But the move could take the company five years.

That seems like a long time for Chick-fil-A customers to have to wait for their chicken sandwiches to be free of antibiotics.

But the chain says it’s necessary -- and that it isn’t simply a matter of using different producers.

“A shift this significant will take time because it requires changes along every point of the supply chain,” a Chick-fil-A spokeswoman said. “We are working with our existing suppliers, who have the ability to match the demand of our sales volume.”

The move comes just months after the Food and Drug Administration released a consumer update on phasing out certain antibiotic use in farm animals. The drugs are typically added to feed or drinking water to help the animals gain weight faster.


The FDA report highlighted the contribution antimicrobial drugs in both humans and animals make to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are considered a threat to public health. According to the FDA, illnesses caused by drug-resistant strains are more likely to be potentially fatal.

Chick-fil-A insisted the report did not influence its decision to go antibiotic-free.

“This was a voluntary decision,” said the company spokeswoman. “At Chick-fil-A, it is our passion to listen and respond to our customers. They tell us the issue of antibiotic usage matters to them, we worked with our suppliers to create a path forward and be responsive to it.”

For the Consumers Union, a group that has been working to get big grocery store chains such as Trader Joe’s to sell antibiotic-free meats, Chick-fil-A’s five-year plan is better than never.

“Chick-Fil-A deserves credit for taking this important step to protect public health,” said Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, in a statement. “We need to stop wasting these critical medications on healthy livestock.”

Tim Tassopoulos, Chick-fil-A executive vice president of operations, promised in a release to post quarterly updates on the company’s progress and said the move could end up taking less than five years, depending on suppliers.

The chicken chain will join Chipotle and Panera Bread, two other quick-service restaurants that pledged to serve meat that has been raised without the use of antibiotics. McDonald’s also addressed the issue in 2003, saying it would ask its meat suppliers to reduce their use of antibiotics.

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