McDonald’s Canada to tighten antibiotic policy for chicken

McDonald’s in 2015 launched a billboard campaign in Canada profiling products made using Canadian meat and potatoes. (Dave Bedard photo)

Following its U.S. arm’s move this spring, McDonald’s now plans to source only chicken raised without medically important antibiotics for its restaurants in Canada by the end of 2018.

And Canada’s chicken producer group says the Canadian chain’s move dovetails with a direction the Canadian industry was headed already.

“McDonald’s believes antibiotics have important benefits, but that a few sensible changes to our policy can both maintain their most important benefits while helping to reduce their use overall,” Rob Dick, senior supply chain director for McDonald’s Canada, said in a release Monday.

To that end, the company said, the Canadian farmers who supply chicken to the chain “will continue to responsibly use ionophores, a type of antibiotic not used for humans that helps keep chickens healthy.”

The chicken served at the 1,400-plus McDonald’s restaurants in Canada, in both its chicken sandwiches and its McNuggets, all comes from Canadian poultry farms, the company said.

McDonald’s Canada said Monday it plans to “work closely with industry to implement the new antibiotics policy in its chicken supply chain within the next three years.”

Chicken Farmers of Canada said the company’s move “plays a role in advancing Canada’s ongoing, long-term Antimicrobial Use (AMU) strategy.”

“Antimicrobial reduction continues to be a concern for farmers, consumers, and public health experts,” CFC chair Dave Janzen said in a separate release.

“Ultimately, the goal of the AMU strategy is to ensure the continued effectiveness of antibiotics while providing continued confidence to consumers.”

Category I antibiotics, those considered “most important to human health,” have been blocked from preventive use in the Canadian chicken sector since mid-May 2014 as part of the industry’s AMU strategy, the CFC said.

The AMU strategy, CFC said, also includes analyzing antimicrobial resistance, reviewing best management practices, ensuring effective controls on AMU in Canada, educating stakeholders and researching and sourcing alternative products.

When introducing the U.S. chain’s new policy in March, Marion Gross, senior vice-president for the company’s North America supply chain, emphasized McDonald’s “believes that any animals that become ill deserve appropriate veterinary care.”

Suppliers, Gross said, in March, “will continue to treat poultry with prescribed antibiotics, and then they will no longer be included in our food supply.” U.S. suppliers would also continue to responsibly use ionophores, the company added.

McDonald’s said Monday the move in Canada is one of several meant to “better meet the changing preferences and expectations of its guests.”

The Canadian chain said last month it would transition to Canadian cage-free eggs over the next 10 years. The company is also one of the founders of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, through which the company aims to help develop sources for “verified sustainable” beef in Canada. — Network

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