The fast food chain, which has 1,700 locations in 39 states and Washington, will work with national and regional poultry suppliers to phase out chickens that receive antibiotics over the next five years. In a similar move last year, the company stopped using a yellow dye in its chicken soup, and is now looking at removing other preservatives from its buns and ending the use of high-fructose corn syrup in its dressings and sauces.
"Since our family business began 67 years ago, we have focused on our customers. It’s why we insist upon using the highest quality ingredients," said Dan Cathy, president and chief executive officer of Chick-fil-A. "We want to continue that heritage, and offering antibiotic-free chicken is the next step."
Company research suggested that people were taking an increasing interest in the source of their food and what goes into making it. So Chik-fil-A is now asking its poultry suppliers to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that the meat they are supplying is free of antibiotics.
"Our suppliers are committed, and we pledge to have this conversion complete within five years or sooner based on supply chain readiness," said Tim Tassopoulos, executive vice president of operations.
This comes close on the heels of an announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last December to phase out the use of certain antibiotics in the food production industry. The move would help prevent the rise of dangerous bacteria and make them immune to such antibiotics.
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics were used in meat and poultry production in 2011, while just 7.7 million pounds were sold for human use.
Some of these developments can be linked back to food blogger Vani Hari, known online as Food Babe, who last year wrote about controversial ingredients used in Chik-fil-A products. Hari was then invited to the Chik-fil-A headquarters, where she says she had a four-hour meeting which covered the topic of antibiotic use in livestock.
"This news was even bigger than I ever imagined. Chick-fil-A publicly committed to become antibiotic-free within 5 years. A bold move for a major fast food company that serves only chicken and that told me this was nearly impossible when I met with them at their headquarters in 2012," said Hari, in a blog post on her site foodbabe.com.