Addressing the concerns over rising drug-resistant bacteria, restaurant chain KFC announced that it will be moving to 100 percent antibiotic-free chicken from 2018.
With this, KFC will be joining many other chicken restaurant chains that already announced the end of antibiotic-laced chicken for their food products.
Farm animals are given antibiotics by farmers to ensure their faster growth and make them disease free. However, it creates health hazards for consumers.
KFC Calls Antibiotic Retreat A Milestone
In the words of Kevin Hochman, president of the U.S division of KFC, the chain's move is a "major milestone" and would increase the supply of bone-in chicken without antibiotics.
"We're constantly working to meet the changing preferences of our customers, while ensuring we deliver on the value they expect from KFC. Offering chicken raised without medically important antibiotics is the next step in that journey," said Hochman.
He said the company is collaborating with more than 2,000 farms for the change. Selling an average 65 million buckets of chicken annually, KFC claimed a third of its suppliers have already shifted to processes to supply chicken with fewer antibiotics.
McDonald's and Chick-fil-A are other notable players who announced similar decisions. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 42 percent of the U.S. chicken industry has now committed to reducing the use of antibiotics.
It is expected KFC's move will have a spillover effect and more companies will join the fray.
Health Issues From Antibiotic-Laced Chicken
The change implies innovations in the menu of KFC. Antibiotic-laced chicken will be out from both boneless as well on-the-bone chicken.
The use of antibiotics in farm animals has transformed into a health concern with the increase of drug-resistant bacteria and threat of hazardous infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"We share the public's concern about...antimicrobial resistance," reiterated Hochman.
However, no price increase is in sight from the efforts to end the sourcing of antibiotic chicken. The cost escalation will be nominal and will be borne by the company
Hochman noted that chicken growers will be tasked with raising more chickens to meet KFC's size demands and stipulations sans antibiotics.
For KFC, the antibiotic renunciation is also a part of an image makeover in what it calls as "re-Colonelization" linked with the memory of its iconic founder Col. Harland Sanders.
KFC also said it will be phasing out artificial colors and flavors from the core menu by the end of 2018 and will offer 100 percent dye-free food by the end of this year. However, drinks and third-party products will be out of this reform at the moment.
KFC Aims For Image Makeover
Vijay Sukumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC U.S., said the elimination of medically important antibiotics from the chicken served in KFC outlets in the United States will keep the health and well-being of the flocks in mind.
The parent company of KFC, Yum! Brands, has been pushing sustainable sourcing and food production with its Good Antimicrobial Stewardship initiatives. Other quick-service chains that made similar pledges include Chipotle, McDonald's, Burger King, Panera and Wendy's.