Responsible Antibiotic Use

Progress Highlights

Use of antibiotics in our chicken supply chain defined as Highest Priority Critically Important to Human Medicine (HPCIA)  has been eliminated in: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

We conducted Beef Antibiotic Monitoring Pilots, focused on Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, U.K., Canada, U.S., and Brazil. These markets represent our top 10 beef sourcing markets which supply over 82% of our global beef supply chain as of the end of 2020. These pilots are informing market-specific baseline antibiotic use from small farm operations, dairies and commercial feed yards.

Why It Matters

 

Antimicrobial resistance is a critical global public health issue that we believe we have a responsibility to help address. 

We take this responsibility seriously, striving to provide antibiotic effectiveness for future generations by working across industry and supply chain with producers, veterinarians, academia and other experts in the field. Our longstanding commitment to the reduction of antibiotic use -- including reducing the use of medically important antibiotics – in food animals spans over 18 years, since we outlined our position on antibiotic use in our supply chain in 2003.   

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animals and humans is contributing to the rising threat of antibiotic resistance in humans."1 McDonald’s is working with suppliers, veterinarians, academia and farmers to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics in our supply chain, including reducing the use of medically important antibiotics in food animal production. Our approach is one of responsible use. This focuses on refining antibiotic selection and administration, reducing antibiotic use and, ultimately, replacing antibiotics when possible with long-term solutions to proactively prevent disease and protect animal health and welfare. We remain committed to the treatment of sick animals aligned with herd veterinarian direction to ensure the safety of the consumer food supply chain.  
 

Through our commitment to responsible antibiotic use, we are doing our part to help preserve its effectiveness for future generations.

Our Strategy

 

McDonald’s is committed to the responsible use of antibiotics according to guidelines set out by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (formerly the OIE) and other recognized public and animal health bodies.

Our efforts to address antimicrobial resistance within our supply chain is highlighted in our revised 2017 Vision for Antibiotic Stewardship (VAS). This document outlines our approach to responsible antibiotic use and commitment to the development of species-specific (Chicken, Beef and Pork) policies. 

Our VAS seeks animal production practices that reduce and, where possible, eliminate the need for antibiotic therapies in animals, by helping to identify and scale leading practices that progressive farms already employ. Our VAS and protein-specific policies are based on the “One Health” approach, which emphasizes the need for collaborative, multi-discipline efforts at local, national and global levels to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

We understand that animals, like people, get sick and require treatment. Treatment of sick animals supports our decades-long commitment to improving the health and welfare of animals in our supply chain. As such, we support a responsible use approach, which focuses on refining antibiotics selection and administration, reducing their use and ultimately replacing antibiotics with long-term solutions to prevent diseases and protect animal health and welfare. We remain committed to the treatment of sick animals aligned with herd veterinarian direction to ensure the safety of the consumer food supply chain.

 

Collaborating With Stakeholders 

Partnering with external experts is at the core of how we approach the development and implementation of our antibiotics policies. The issue of antimicrobial resistance is one that requires global multi-stakeholder, cross-industry collaboration to tackle. We engage a variety of stakeholders, including academia, suppliers, farmers and ranchers, NGOs, veterinary networks and others who have deep understanding of these important issues and of responsible use strategies to help provide input. McDonald’s was a founding participant of the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA). Through this cross-industry collaboration, we work to identify and advance commercial solutions to address antimicrobial resistance. 

 

The path for creating and implementing a global antibiotic use policy for beef is unprecedented. I’ve been encouraged by the thoroughness with which McDonald’s has engaged diverse experts while creating this policy and the seriousness with which they take this important issue.
Dan Thomson, MS, PhD, DVM, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University

 

Putting Standards Into Practice 

The Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Food Animals is the foundation of McDonald’s global VAS. The following principles draw from existing frameworks: 

 

  • People first – Antibiotics that are approved for both human and animal use, other than those defined by the WHO as HPCIA, may be used in animals for disease treatment or prevention only in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements and after thorough consideration of alternatives, including the use of antibiotics belonging to classes not used in human medicine.

  • Quality and safety – McDonald’s is committed to ensuring wholesome and safe food for our customers. Safe food is McDonald’s number one priority and is central to all Company operations.

  • Animal health and welfare – Treating animals with care is integral to McDonald’s animal health and welfare program. Disease prevention strategies, such as good husbandry and hygiene, routine health monitoring, immunization and other preventative options, should be emphasized before the use of antibiotics. However, to not treat sick animals is inhumane and inconsistent with McDonald’s belief that food animals within the McDonald’s System supply chain are properly cared for throughout their lives.

  • Antibiotics for food animals – Responsible use of any category of antibiotic is an integral part of an overall animal health and welfare program. These principles do not preclude the responsible use of any category of antibiotic, except for HPCIAs, to treat or, where appropriate, prevent disease.

  • Veterinary oversight – Veterinary oversight through a valid veterinary client-patient relationship is core to responsible antibiotic use. Antibiotics shall be used in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements, and shall be used only in accordance with the product license requirements and as directed by a veterinarian.

  • Limit exposure – Antibiotic use should be confined to appropriate clinical indications. Exposure to antibiotics for disease treatment or prevention should be minimized by limiting treatment to sick animals or animals at risk of a specific disease. The use of any category of antibiotic for disease prevention should be regularly reassessed by a veterinarian. Usage of an antibiotic in a manner that is not in accordance with labeled directions, including but not limited to, a different dosage, time interval, route/application method, clinical indication or species, may be prescribed only after other antibiotic treatment options have been exhausted, and must be prescribed in accordance with the most up-to-date laws and regulations that govern drug use.

  • Record keeping – Accurate records of treatment and outcomes should be used to evaluate antibiotic regimen. Identify, track and maintain medication and treatment records for all treated animals.

 

Helping Support the Sustainable Development Goals

Our work on responsible antibiotic use helps supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:

Our Performance

Goal

Eliminate the use of antibiotics defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Highest Priority Critically Important Antibiotics (HPCIA) to human medicine – as defined by the WHO – from all chicken served by 2027.2

Progress

HPCIA use has been eliminated in the following McDonald’s markets: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea and the United States. China will comply on or before 2027.

Goal

In collaboration with our suppliers, producers and farmer partners, we will establish market-appropriate targets for use of medically important antibiotics–as defined by the WHO–in our beef supply chain.3

Progress

Beef Antibiotic Monitoring Pilots have been conducted in Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, U.K., Canada, U.S., and Brazil, representing our top 10 beef sourcing markets which supplied over 82% of our global beef supply chain as of the end of 2020. Starting in 2022, we will collaborate with industry leaders, academics, suppliers and experts to refine our measurement capabilities and plans to help shape a path forward. Following this engagement, the results from our pilots will be used to inform targets for responsible antibiotic use in our beef supply chain.  

Our Actions


Implementing a Global Chicken Antibiotics Policy

As part of our commitment to use responsibly sourced chicken, in 2017 we implemented our Chicken Antibiotics Policy in our 10 markets around the world.3 This policy requires responsible use of antibiotics in broiler chickens by System Suppliers and prohibits antibiotics used for routine prevention or growth promotion. All in-scope markets are on track to eliminate the use of HPCIAs in our chicken supply on or before 2027.

We are focused on expanding our efforts globally year-over-year. Since February 2019, we’ve tracked antibiotic use in over 5 billion birds across our top 20 suppliers, representing 85 slaughter facilities for 88 separate medicines, resulting in significant reductions in antibiotic use across our supply chain. We collaborate with FAI Farms, a farm animal and agricultural research company based in Oxford, UK, on data collection and third-party verification of producer data. 

Advocating for Responsible Antibiotic Use in Beef 

We implemented our Antibiotic Use Policy for Beef and Dairy Beef (PDF – 520 KB) in 2018. Our beef policy is informed by the VAS, and follows global guidance from expert bodies like the WHO and Organization for Animal Health. While our policy maintains focus on the overall reduction of medically important antibiotics – as defined by the WHO, aligned with the One Health approach and the 3 R’s (Reduce, Refine and Replace) – where appropriate and measurable, due to COVID related delays and knowledge gained along the way, we are evolving our plan with approaching targets.  

As a first step in our policy, we completed global pilot tests, partnering with producers and suppliers, to inform market-specific baseline antibiotic use from commercial feedlots, small farm operations and dairies. Our efforts focused on Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, the U.K. and the U.S. markets, which represented our top 10 beef sourcing markets and accounted for over 82% of our global beef supply chain in 2020. 

The data from these pilots will be used to inform market-appropriate targets for responsible antibiotic use in collaboration with input from multi-stakeholder perspectives. Starting in 2022, we will collaborate with industry leaders, academics, suppliers and other expert stakeholders to refine the targets and measurement capabilities that will shape our path forward for responsible antibiotic use. Following this engagement, we will report insights from our pilot test baselines across our major beef sourcing markets.  

 

Our Pork Policy  

In 2021, we created a global, cross-functional working group to help develop an antibiotic policy for pork in our supply chain, anchored to responsible use. This draft policy has been introduced to our global suppliers, who were asked to conduct gap assessments between the requirements in our policy and their current internal policies on antibiotic use. These gap assessments will be evaluated during the first half of 2022 and used to inform the implementation timeline for the policy. 

Footnotes

1 https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/07-11-2017-stop-using-antibiotics-in-healthy-animals-to-prevent-the-spread-of-antibiotic-resistance

2 Markets covered by the goal include: Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Russia, China and Europe. For the sake of this goal, Europe includes the following countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine.

3 This goal focuses on Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, the U.K., and the U.S, which represented our top 10 beef sourcing countries and accounted for over 82% of our global beef supply chain as of the end of 2020.  

4 Markets covered by the policy include: Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Russia, China and Europe. For the sake of this policy, Europe includes the following countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine.