NEW YORK (May 17, 2016) — The Natural Resources Defense Council today launched a national campaign urging Kentucky Fried Chicken—the largest fast-food chicken chain in the country—to commit to phasing out chicken raised with the routine use of antibiotics.
“KFC’s antibiotics polices are not finger lickin’ good for public health,” said Lena Brook, food policy advocate at NRDC. “With fast-food restaurants increasingly serving meat raised with better antibiotics practices, KFC is lagging behind competitors like Chick-Fil-A and its sister company, Taco Bell. As the nation’s largest fast -ood chicken chain, KFC has an opportunity and responsibility to help stem the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections by cleaning up its antibiotics policies.”
NRDC is calling on KFC to make a time-bound commitment to only purchase chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics important to human medicine. These lifesaving drugs should be used only on animals that are sick—not for growth promotion or in anticipation of diseases they may contract in unhealthy living conditions, both of which are problematic practices that fuel drug-resistant infections in people and animals.
KFC competitors like McDonalds, Subway and Chick-Fil-A have already committed to stopping routine use of antibiotics in their chicken supply chains. Restaurants like Chipotle and Panera Bread report that they have been serving chicken raised without antibiotics for years. Even Taco Bell—KFC’s sister company, as both are owned by Yum! Brands—announced last month that it plans to eliminate use of antibiotics important to human medicine in chicken by early 2017.
KFC, which has more restaurant outlets than any other fast food chicken chain, is lagging behind in addressing this critical public health threat. Instead of setting clear reduction targets, KFC’s website merely indicates it will follow FDA’s flawed phaseout of growth-promoting antibiotics next year. Unfortunately, this policy allows many of the same drugs to be used routinely to help birds survive unhealthy living conditions and will likely do little to reduce overall use.
NRDC’s campaign includes:
- A mascot named Auntie Biotic—a pill-covered chicken—that stars in a series of online videos interacting with KFC customers.
- Mobile billboard advertising near KFC’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, running through the duration of a local Yum! Brands shareholder meeting this month and beyond.
- An online petition addressed to KFC CEO Roger Eaton.
- Social channels on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- A campaign website.
NRDC’s KFC campaign amplifies parallel efforts from partner groups like Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers International, Food Animals Concern Trust and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, that are also urging the chicken giant to improve their antibiotics practices.
It is the latest in a series of successful public-facing corporate campaigns brought by NRDC and its allies to encourage companies to adopt better antibiotics policies. Most recently, Taco Bell announced a new and improved antibiotic policy in April, on the heels of a letter NRDC and more than 80 other public interest organizations sent to the chairman of Yum! Brand restaurants. Previous campaigns also focused on Subway, the world’s largest fast-food chain, and Foster Farms, the largest poultry producer on the West Coast. Both companies have since pledged to end reliance on routine antibiotics.
More than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use on livestock and poultry. More than 96 percent of those drugs are routinely distributed en masse in feed or water—often to animals that are not sick to speed up growth and help animals survive crowded and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms.
This practice contributes to the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections in humans. Leading medical experts warn that we must stop overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and animal agriculture, or else the life-saving drugs we rely on to treat common infections and enable medical procedures could increasingly stop working.
Conservatively, at least 2 million Americans are already infected with antibiotic-resistant infections every year, and at least 23,000 die as a direct result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- FACT SHEET: 10 Things to Know About KFC Chicken and Antibiotics
- WEBSITE: www.nrdc.org/tellKFC
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.