Subway is to cut antibiotic use in U.S. meat supplies over a ten-year framework. The decision places the restaurant among the largest to commit to such an ambitious pledge.
Ambitious, yet much needed. Over the past years, growing concern over the emergence of superbugs or antibiotic-resistant bacteria has pushed the food industry, farmers and suppliers to cut antibiotic use.
Starting with 2016, Subway plans to introduce both turkey and chicken that is antibiotic-free in all U.S. restaurants. Over a ten-year time period, the restaurant chain plans to fully cut antibiotic use from beef and pork production as well.
Subway is the largest U.S. restaurant chain taking into consideration the number of outlets across states. Due to its size and concerns over declining sales and a tarnished image, the chain announced on Tuesday that it will do its best to meet the requirements of the FDA, consumer groups and public-health agencies asking for zero antibiotic use in meat supplies.
Dennis Clabby, the executive VP of Subway Independent Purchasing Cooperative stated:
“Today’s consumer is ever more mindful of what they are eating, and we’ve been making changes to address what they are looking for”.
Over half of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in farms where poultry and livestock is grown. Antibiotic use prevents diseases in both livestock and poultry. At the same time, it is used to boost growth, which translates in more profit for suppliers. However, it has also led to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, leading to a number of warnings on the effects of antibiotic use in poultry and livestock and public human health. Against this background, the food industry is under increased pressure to cut back on antibiotic use, as well as meat supplies grown on antibiotics.
At the heart of the decision lies a genuine concern for consumer health. However, Subway’s tarnished image also plays in a role. The sandwich seller has been facing several public scandals, as well as increased pressure to make the transition to antibiotic free meat supplies. Last year marked the first pitfall in sales across the U.S. for the restaurant chain in over a decade.
According to the Tuesday announcement, Subway is to cut antibiotic use in U.S. meat supplies by 2025. However, it will start in March 2016 by gradually introducing antibiotic-free chicken and turkey. It is expected that by the end of next year, all of the restaurant chain’s chicken supply will shift to antibiotic-free.
Turkey supply is to shift entirely within the next three years, with the first antibiotic-free supplies also being introduced next year. To meet the pledge of eliminating antibiotic use, Subway announced that the beef and pork supplies will fully be transitioned by the end of 2025.
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