The big news for antimicrobial resistance over the past week has been the decision by McDonald’s (the fast food chain) to use only antibiotic-free chicken in 2 years’ time. This will only affect the U.S. branches, although the company is also exploring phasing this in Europe. No signs of this happening in Singapore or the rest of Asia, unfortunately.

McDonald's chicken products (images from Google Images)
McDonald’s chicken products (images from Google Images)

As this article in Forbes (and elsewhere like Slate) explains, however, McDonald’s is not doing this out of any general good will or public spiritedness (like concern about antimicrobial resistance), but rather because of the changing landscape of consumers in U.S., and competition from other chains like Chipotle and Shake Shack that have differentiated themselves by emphasising sustainability and health consciousness. That is partly why they have not announced this step for their global branches: in Singapore, for instance, the cost of antibiotic-free chicken is far higher compared to the “antibiotic-fed” variety, and not enough people care about the issue of antibiotic use in animal husbandry. McDonald’s has probably calculated that the supply costs would be too high and the returns too low to implement this here.

Be that as it may, it is a good start and this move will undoubtedly raise public awareness beyond America. I had a feeling of deja vu when I read about this in the papers however. Turns out that in 2003, McDonald’s had made a similar pledge, and the original document remains on their website. Perhaps with the business pressures and competition they are facing today, the policy may actually be implemented this time.

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