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Listen to real meat eaters, not vocal minority

A group of nuns is asking McDonald’s to serve antibiotic-free pork and beef, or that is how the Chicago Tribune is reporting it.

In a regulatory filing last week, McDonald’s discloses the Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas, intend to submit a shareholder proposal at the company’s annual meeting in May, asking the company to phase out routine use of antibiotics.

So, just what are the nuns really asking? Beef and pork raised with “no antibiotics ever”? Not exactly, or at least that is not how the actual proposal is written.

As stated in the nun’s advisory proposal:

“Shareholders request that the Board update the 2015 McDonald’s Global Vision for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Food Animals by adopting the following policy regarding use of antibiotics by its meat suppliers:

Set global sourcing targets with timelines for pork and beef raised without the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics.”

Pork raised without non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics. Done, America’s pig farmers are supplying pork with those standards now. The recent changes in antibiotic use on the farm by the Food and Drug Administration eliminate the use of antimicrobials that are medically important to human health for growth promotion and bring veterinary oversight to therapeutic use to treat, control or prevent diseases.

Essentially, one-by-one food companies are setting sourcing standards for meat suppliers that match the new FDA antibiotic rules. Often food policy standards start with a recommendation from a shareholder and an annual meeting vote.

The interesting part about this proposal is McDonald’s board recommends shareholders to vote against the proposal. Company representatives outline the following reasons with the Chicago Tribune for not favoring the proposal.

• According to McDonald’s, “it’s too early to set timelines for committing to a rollout of antibiotic-free pork and beef because it doesn’t purchase the entire cow or pig as it does with chicken, which the company says limits its ‘ability to directly influence change’.”

• There is a current lack of traceability in tracking the movement of cattle and pigs. The company buys its chicken from only two suppliers, but purchases beef and pork from thousands of ranches and farms.

• Finally, there is not enough antibiotic-free pork and beef currently, McDonald’s states.

While you applaud McDonald’s for not jumping on the bandwagon, I have some serious heartburn over their reasons. Technically, meat raised in the United States is free of antibiotic residue. Even if an antibiotic is given to an animal, farmers and processors must allow a specific amount of time to pass (withdrawal period) before slaughtering. This withdrawal period allows the animal to metabolize the antibiotic and the residue exits the body. Furthermore, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service randomly samples animals and tissues at the time of slaughter to test for residues, to ensure a safe food supply. Therefore, there is plenty of pork and beef available in the United States today.

Still, the most alarming part is McDonald’s is giving serious thought to “no antibiotics ever” pork and beef. So, I have to ask at what point do food companies ask the real meat customers what they really prefer? When do we stop listening to the tiny majority that probably never eats meat?

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