Restaurant Brands International (RBI), parent of Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes, announced its decision to purchase only chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine by the end of 2018, a major sustainability milestone for the world’s third-largest fast food restaurant operator.
RBI came to an agreement in March 2016 with As You Sow,a non-profit shareholder advocacy group, to set timelines to prohibit the use of medically important antibiotics in its global meat and poultry supply chains. In response to this commitment, As You Sow withdrew a shareholder resolution calling for reduced antibiotic use in the Company’s products.
Shareholders of meat and restaurant companies have been increasingly adamant that these companies take responsibility to combat growing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic use in livestock contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance in all bacteria, thereby reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating human disease. An estimated 70 percent of antibiotics important to human health are sold for use in meat and dairy production. Experts estimate these infections will kill 10 million people per year worldwide by 2050.
The restaurant industry has begun adopting policies restricting antibiotic use in poultry. In issuing this new restriction on antibiotics, Restaurant Brands joins major restaurant companies Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), McDonald’s, and Wendy’s in curbing antibiotic use.
Sanderson Farms is a notable exception to this trend. It remains the only major producer that has not committed to limit use of medically important antibiotics in chicken. Competitor Perdue Farms raises 95% of its chickens without any antibiotics, and Tyson Foods plans to eliminate medically important antibiotic use in its chickens by September 2017. As You Sow’s shareholder proposal with Sanderson Farms to limit antibiotic use was supported by 30% of shareholders in January 2017 – a record for a proposal addressing antibiotic resistance.
Congratulations to the persistence of As You Sow.