Restaurant Chains Follow Panera’s Lead on Rules for Antibiotics in Meat

Bematech Blog - November 30, 2016

antibiotics in meat is a concern among diners such as these that a waiter is serving in a restaurantRestaurant operators are facing increasing pressure to cut down on or eliminate antibiotics in meat in their menu items. Savvy restaurateurs are realizing that compliance with this standard can play an important part in their reputation among many consumers.

What is “Meat Raised without Antibiotics”?

Although the term “antibiotic-free meat” is occasionally used in place of “meat raised without antibiotics,” but they aren’t the same. The meat you have been serving at your restaurant could have come from animals that were raised with antibiotics, but still contained no antibiotics. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Regulations govern the use of antibiotics in meat. Farmers who use antibiotics for their animals must comply with regulations that set forth strict dosing schedules that dictate antibiotics administration. Among other mandates, these schedules call for the withdrawal of antibiotics at particular junctures before they are slaughtered.
  • Antibiotics withdrawal schedules mean consumers won’t actually ingest antibiotics contained in the meat of slaughtered animals. Antibiotic residues may remain, but the amount of residue is regulated and the withdrawal schedules prevent it from being excessive and thus, potentially harmful to humans.

The issue isn’t that there are antibiotics in the meat that your customers could ingest. The problem is with the use of antibiotics at all.

The Trouble with Antibiotics

Whether antibiotics are administered to speed up growth or to prevent disease, their use can lead to antibiotic resistance. Often referred to as “superbugs,” antibiotic-resistant bacteria that develop from administering antibiotics to animals can contribute to the larger problem of antibiotic resistance in humans, according to a report by Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as many other consumer interest, public health, and environmental organizations.

The ability to treat infections that could once be cured with antibiotics becomes difficult when a bacteria strain become antibiotic resistant. According to the Friends of the Earth report this “means that antibiotics may not work when we need them most, even to cure minor infections.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that at least two million Americans contract antibiotic-resistant infections each year; with 23,000 people dying as a result.

Restaurants Take a Stand

Some restaurant operators have taken steps to address the problem of antibiotics in meat:

  • Panera Bread blazed the trail more than 10 years ago when it started serving chicken raised without antibiotics. Today, all chicken, ham, bacon, sausage, and roasted turkey used in the chain’s sandwiches and salads falls into the “raised without antibiotics” category.
  • Chipotle’s menu includes mostly meats from animals to which antibiotics have not been regularly administered.
  • Wendy’s has reportedly been testing chicken raised without antibiotics.
  • Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s have established policies limiting antibiotic use in their chicken.
  • Subway has pledged to switch use only antibiotic-free meat in its food by 2025, with much of the transition occurring before this date.

For restaurateurs, the issue is not only a matter of helping to maintain public health and safety. It’s a good business decision. Consumers have become justifiably concerned about antibiotic resistance and many are looking for restaurants that serve meats that were not raised with antibiotics.

Consider showing your customers you value their business and their health by offering meats that were raised without antibiotics.