Subway is planning to stop all use of meat from animals that have been treated with antibiotics, the company announced Tuesday.
The company said it was going to transition to serving only meat from animals—including chicken, turkey, and pork—raised without antibiotics. The company said it planned to have all of its more than 27,000 American storefronts selling antibiotic-free meat beginning in March 2016, when antibiotic-free chicken would be available on the menu. Antibiotic-free turkey will be fully introduced by 2019, and by 2025, pork and beef products sold at stores will be antibiotic-free as well.
“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,” Dennis Clabby, executive vice president of SUBWAY’s Independent Purchasing Cooperative, said. “A change like this will take some time, particularly since the supply of beef raised without antibiotics in the U.S. is extremely limited and cattle take significantly longer to raise. But, we are working diligently with our suppliers to make it happen.”
Antibiotics are often used by animal suppliers to make livestock heavier and more resistant to disease. The use of antibiotics has been blamed for the rise of “superbugs,” or infections that are resistant to drugs that would otherwise readily kill them.
The franchise has had a poor history regarding antibiotics in its products. Just last month, several interest groups released a report rating 25 fast food and fast-casual restaurants based on their use of antibiotics and how transparent they were about their use. Subway was one of 20 brands given an F.
But the brand has sought to clean up its image. In June, Subway announced that it would remove artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from its menu, setting a goal of clearing these additives from the menu by the end of 2017.
Subway is not the first brand to bow to increasing public pressure to erase antibiotics from its menu: McDonalds announced in March that it was going to stop selling chicken treated with antibiotics in an effort to be a “modern, progressive burger company;” major chicken producer Tyson Foods followed suit in April, announcing it would eliminate antibiotic use by September 2017 in its products.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named antibiotic resistance one of the top 5 health threats facing Americans. Currently, more than 2 million Americans get infections that are resistant to antibiotics; about 23,000 people die from these infections.