KFC said Friday that it will stop serving chickens raised with certain antibiotics.
The announcement is the latest move in KFC's US brand "turnaround", which it labels the "re-colonelization" of KFC.
Other fast food companies have made similar pledges, including McDonald's. Estimates suggest the company's newfound commitment could lead to a majority of the USA chicken industry no longer raising birds with the routine use of medically important antibiotics. Its Chicken McNuggets are a top seller and the change put pressure on the rest of the industry to follow.
Seventy percent of human antibiotics are now used for meat and dairy production to help prevent infections like E. coli in animals - aka to prevent vendors from taking losses when some animals naturally get sick and can't be sold as food for humans anymore. Officials have said that it can lead to germs becoming resistant to drugs, making antibiotics no longer effective in treating some illnesses in humans. "It required close collaboration with more than 2,000 farms, majority family-owned and managed, in more than a dozen USA states where they raise our chickens". It says that it hopes this will help act as a sign for other restaurant chains to make the same changes. A coalition of consumer and public health groups, including U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), had urged the company to act on the issue. "The company's newfound commitment on antibiotics should have lasting effects on the way these life-saving medicines are used in the chicken industry".
Given its stature, KFC had been the focus of several antibiotic reduction campaigns by consumer, health and environment groups, including U.S. PIRG, as well as from a coalition of British and U.S. shareholders with more than $2 trillion in assets under management.
"We recognize that it's a growing public health concern".
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"This is something that's important to many of our customers and it's something we need to do to show relevance and modernity within our brand", Hochman said. With the Re-Colonelization of KFC, the brand committed to simplifying operations in its restaurants, investing more than 100,000 hours to re-train its team members, bringing the Colonel back in its advertising, remodeling more than 3,000 restaurants over a three-year period, and inviting America to come back and experience the brand they remembered. But KFC said it believes it is on the cutting edge in trying to go without antibiotics when it comes to on-the-bone chicken.
The KFC U.S. antibiotics commitment is also part of parent company Yum!
Yum spun off its KFC-dominated China division in November. This applies to the bird's full life cycle, including the hatchery where chicks are sometimes injected with antibiotics while still in the shell. The group endorses KFC's move. That includes initiatives to simplify operations, retrain workers, build new ads around the idea of the chain's original founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, remodel more than 3,000 stores. "Their commitment is one that we've been waiting for".
The overuse breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can spread to people through various pathways, the release stated.
Hochman said the policy change has been in the works for a year.
With KFC's announcement, 11 out of the top 15 chains in the US have now committed to some level of responsible antibiotics use for their chicken supplies.