|McDonald’s is changing the wold, one chicken nugget at a time-
By now most of you have no doubt heard the news about McDonald’s- they’re going antibiotic-free with their chicken. A move that is expected to take two years, McDonald’s will no longer allow antibiotics deemed important to human health to be used in its poultry. Soon to follow, a handful of mega food retailers like Costco and Chick fil-A. (As soon as McDonald’s successfully tests the economics that is.)
Score for consumers! Sounds great, but what does this really mean? In the most simplistic sense- it means you have spoken and the world of mega food retailing giants have heard. The shift towards healthier, pasture-raised meats and poultry is real and hitting folks like McDonald’s in the spot where it hurts most- their bottom lines. Profits are shrinking and McDonald’s is reacting.
The decision to go antibiotic free has created shock-waves in the industry- poised to seriously impact producers like Tyson and Perdue hard and consumers alike. But the shock waves have not been isolated to just the retail consumer world, they have also created smaller ripples among pastured- poultry producers like our farm. Raising the genuine question what does all of this mean for us?
McDonald’s decision sounds simple, but of course there is a large grey area. Yes, your chicken nuggets will no longer be laced with antibiotics. Huray!! …well, maybe. The chickens grown to supply McDonald’s with their millions of pounds of meat may still receive antibiotics when and if deemed necessary. Huh? Yes, it’s true. And don’t forget their chickens will still be raised in CAFOs- the very practice which ultimately requires routine antibiotic use in the first place. Antibiotic use and CAFOs go hand in hand. (Imagine a large school, or worse a sports stadium crammed with people for two months. No showers, no baths. You might want a little antibiotics at that point too.)
The story of McDonald’s is just the tip of the iceberg in a story about changing food trends in the US. Just this year California enacted Proposition 2, requiring a major shift in the amount of space given to laying hens. What seemed so simple and good on the surface has scrambled (yes, cheesy pun intended) the industry and left California with an unintended result- really expensive eggs from still very-caged chickens.
The shift for safer, cleaner, more sustainably raised food in the U.S. is happening. In large part due to behavior of your wallets! The bottom line is you can’t go from one chicken nugget meal to a clean safe food system over night. We all know that. The path to a more sustainable food system is more of a marathon- one that requires you know your farmer to truly understand the roots of your food and the differences between the labels and the marketing messages being dangled out there. Antibiotic-free is not the same as pasture-raised. It’s a step, but it doesn’t go far enough.
The take away from all of this? Buying from McDonald’s is the pathway to a more sustainable food system. Just kidding. We know you’re smarter than that! We know you know the path to a truly sustainable food system requires several steps and at the very least discussion which we have achieved here. We invite you to continue the path here