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McDonald’s to Serve Antibiotic Free Chicken
By James Griffitts, Contributor

A new initiative by McDonald’s is moving the company away from chicken treated with certain antibiotics. This move comes as McDonald’s suffers from historically low sales and customers depart for restaurants with a bigger emphasis on good health. Chains like Chipotle and Panera have become increasingly popular with consumers as healthy eating becomes a higher priority.

McDonalds 1McDonald’s has stated their intention to use chicken which was raised without antibiotics deemed “important to human medicine,” as well as offering milk and chocolate milk which has not been treated with the growth hormone rbST. The statement has been well received by consumers and investors. McDonald’s share price has rallied in response to the announcement, trading over $100 for the first time since July 2014.

This change comes amidst a new publicity campaign by McDonald’s aiming to improve public perception of their food, particularly among Millennials. This campaign includes a greater emphasis on health and transparency. Part of the campaign is a program called Our Food, Your Questions. The program allows for consumers to directly pose questions to McDonalds through social media, and the company has created videos focused on making various products.

The move to use chicken untreated by antibiotics has also impacted major meat suppliers in the United States. Tyson Foods Inc, the largest supplier of chicken in the U.S., has already taken steps to reduce and eliminate the usage of antibiotics effective in humans. Other suppliers are expected to follow suit in response to the recent move by McDonald’s.

This shift brings McDonald’s U.S. sourcing policies in line with Europe, where the usage of antibiotics effective on humans is banned. The transition may be challenging for McDonald’s, however, as the company has a long history of sourcing food based on price rather than sustainability and health concerns. McDonald’s must find balance between polishing their brand image on health while remaining reasonably constant on price and ease of access, the corporation’s biggest selling points.

While these steps have mostly been positively received, McDonald’s nonetheless has much more to do to be perceived as healthy or sustainable by consumers, including action on beef and pork production. When the environmental and health effects of the Big Mac and the McRib are revisited, perhaps consumers will revisit their perceptions of McDonald’s.

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Posted: March 23, 2015