February 11, 2014

Chick-fil-A to use chicken without antibiotics

Chick-fil-A says its plans to serve only chicken raised without antibiotics within the next five years.

Chick-fil-A says its plans to serve only chicken raised without antibiotics within the next five years.

The Atlanta-based chain says it’s working with suppliers to build up an adequate supply for its nearly 1,800 restaurants. It says it’s asking suppliers to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to verify that no antibiotics are administered on the chickens at any point.

The use of antibiotics to fatten up farm animals and prevent disease has become a growing concern. The fear is that the practice could lead to the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs, though the actual health effects on humans have not been established.

Still, many consumers don’t like the idea of eating meat raised with antibiotics, and serving meat raised without antibiotics can be a marketing advantage for companies.

Charlotte food blogger Vani Hari, who was involved in last week’s movement to have Subway remove azodicarbonamide from its bread, said getting antibiotics out of Chick-fil-A’s chicken has been one of her priorities since she began blogging in 2011. Last week the Subway sandwich chain said it would remove a chemical from its breads, after Hari launched a petition on her blog that garnered 50,000 signatures in the first 24 hours.

After writing a blog post called “Chick-fil-A or Chemical-fil-A?” that pointed out the nearly 100 ingredients in a Chick-fil-A sandwich, Hari said she went to Chick-fil-A headquarters in October 2012 to talk with executives.

“We are constantly listening to our customers and evaluating our menu. Vani has offered us valuable insight along our journey, and we have enjoyed working with her,” said Tiffany Greenway, a Chick-fil-A spokeswoman, in an email Tuesday.

Hari called Chick-fil-A’s announcement a turning point but also said she hopes the company removes antibiotics from chicken sooner than in five years.

Tim Tassopoulos, Chick-fil-A’s executive vice president of operations, said in a phone interview that the company planned to keep customers updated on its progress in coming months and eventually advertise its completion in stores.

“We’re going to make sure customers know,” he said.

Tassopoulos says that the switch to chickens raised without antibiotics would probably result in higher prices for customers, but said the company is working with suppliers to ensure the increase is “minimal.”

Chick-fil-A says its conversion will require “changes along every point of the supply chain – from the hatchery to the processing plant.” The company’s suppliers include Tyson, Purdue and Pilgrim’s Pride.

Chick-fil-A is based in Atlanta and has locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C. Staff Writer Lindsay Ruebens contributed.

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