What's In Store

Bojangles’ makes changes it hopes will please food activists, including Food Babe

An employee at Bonjangles’ 3rd Street location loads a box of fried chicken for a drive-through customer.
An employee at Bonjangles’ 3rd Street location loads a box of fried chicken for a drive-through customer. Observer file photo

Amid pressure from activists groups, Charlotte-based Bojangles’ says it is in the process of phasing out chicken raised on antibiotics.

Led by the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group and the Charlotte blogger known as the Food Babe, activists on Tuesday delivered a petition with more than 12,000 signatures to the Bojangles’ headquarters imploring the chicken-and-biscuits chain to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics in its meat supply chain.

Bojangles’ says it adheres to specific poultry supply-chain guidelines and is already in the process of eliminating antibiotics use, a goal it says it shared with activists groups in October.

“Our conversations with our protein suppliers leave us confident that tremendous progress is being made toward eliminating their use of antibiotics important to human medicine by 2020,” spokesman Brian Little said.

He added that the move away from antibiotics is not in response to activists groups: “The safety of our food is of paramount importance to Bojangles’, and we are committed to exploring sensible approaches that address evolving consumer needs.”

Antibiotics are often given to animals that aren’t sick as a way to promote growth, but many experts say the habit can lead to drug resistance among consumers.

In their letter to the fast-food chain, the activists said that Bojangles’ “continues to lag behind industry leaders on this issue.”

McDonald’s, for instance, last August said it no longer serves chicken raise on antibiotics “that are important to human medicine.” Chick-fil-A said last August that it is on track for its goal of serving only antibiotic-free chicken by the end of 2019.

“I grew up eating at Bojangles’ here in Charlotte and want to see them do the right thing, not just for our local community, but for the public health of our nation,” Food Babe blogger Vani Hari said in the letter.

Hari has a national following and has pressured changes from food corporations, including Subway, which removed a controversial dough conditioner from its breads. Some food-policy advocates and academics say Hari’s claims can be overblown and inconsistent, however.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta