Chick-fil-A's famous chicken sandwiches are going antibiotic free. In five years, that is.
On Tuesday, the Georgia-based chicken sandwich chain announced that it will cease serving antibiotic-raised chicken by 2019. This comes on the heels of several other health-oriented recipe tweaks announced by Chick-fil-A, as well as a federally supported, consumer-led movement toward less processed foods.
“We are collaborating with national and regional poultry suppliers to build a supply chain based on chickens raised with no antibiotics,” says the company in a statement. “We are asking suppliers to work with the USDA to verify that antibiotics are never administered from the hatchery to the processing plant…Changes like these take time, but we believe this is the next step in honoring our heritage and our continued commitment to service and quality.”
This will affect all 1,700 locations that span 39 states, plus Washington DC. Renowned for its chicken sandwich, the chain is also known for its waffle fries fresh-squeezed lemonade, plus a bevy of other fried chicken products.
This news follows a plan rolled out in December of last year by the US Food and Drug Administration that calls on livestock industries to phase out nonmedical use of antibiotics in food-producing animals. Some antibiotics used in feed are the same as human antibiotics, which some say has led to a growing human resistance to the drugs.
Chick-fil-A has made concerted efforts in the last year to maintain its image as a healthier option for those looking for food on the go. In December, the chain announced it would remove high-fructose corn syrup from its buns and artificial colors from its dressing, sauces, and chicken soup. The company also announced that it would be testing out a new recipe for peanut oil – the original contained TBHQ, a chemical made from butane.
Chick-fil-A is far from the only major company to fine-tune its recipes. Last week, Subway announced it would discontinue use of a chemical additive in its sandwich bread that is also used in shoe rubber, yoga mats, and a bevy of other fast food items. Last year, PepsiCo removed an emulsifier also found in flame retardants from the ingredients of citrus-flavored Gatorade. Kraft is working to remove artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese. Where has this uptick in change come from? According to Chick-fil-A, consumers demand it.
“When the people who matter most to you ask you to do something important --- you listen,” says the company in its release. “So when our customers started asking us about antibiotics in chicken, we began exploring our options.”
But it turns out some consumers have louder voices than others.
Vani Hari, blogger at Foodbabe.com, met with Chick-fil-A executives in 2012 after her post “Chick-fil-A or Chemical-fil-A?”, that highlighted several of Chick-fil-A’s recipe ingredients, went viral. She met with Chick-fil-A executives and advocated for antibiotic-free chicken, as well as the removal of artificial dyes from products. Last month, she circulated a petition that garnered over 68,000 signatures pressuring Subway to rework its bread recipe.
Consumers have also been speaking with their wallets. A 2011 study from the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that “better for you” foods (both reduced calorie and foods perceived to be more nutritious) drove more than 70 percent of sales growth between 2007 and 2011.