KFC to Eliminate Antibiotics in US Chicken Supply Chain

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has announced that all chicken it purchases in the United States will be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine by the end of 2018.

According to a press release issued by the Louisville, Kentucky-headquartered company, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., this marks the first time a major national quick service restaurant (QSR) operator in the United States has extended an antibiotics commitment beyond boneless chicken to its chicken-on-the-bone menu items.

KFC chicken"Making this change was complex and took a lot of planning. It required close collaboration with more than 2,000 farms, most of them family-owned and managed, in more than a dozen states where they raise our chickens," said Kevin Hochman, president and chief concept officer for KFC’s US division.

It has been estimated that up to 70% of antibiotics prescribed to guard against infections in human beings are used in meat and dairy food production, and medical researchers are concerned that overuse of such drugs may diminish their effectiveness in fighting disease in humans. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that at about two million Americans are stricken with antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections every year, and at least 23,000 die as a result.

The antibiotics phase-out decision from the QSR chain, which operates approximately 4,200 outlets across the United States, was welcomed by the Natural Resources defense Council (NRDC). Last year the New York City-headquartered environmental advocacy group launched a “national call to action” campaign urging KFC to rethink antibiotics usage in its poultry supply lines.

"KFC's new policy will be a game-changer for the fast food industry and public health. The market is responding to consumer demand for better meat. This commitment from the nation's most iconic fast food chicken chain will have a major impact on the way the birds are raised in the US and in the fight against the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections," said Lena Brook, the NRDC’s food policy advocate.

KFC outlet"Eliminating medically important antibiotics from the chicken we serve in our restaurants, while keeping the health and well-being of the flocks in mind, was important in our decision to make this commitment," said Vijay Sukumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC U.S. "To extend our commitment beyond our boneless menu items to all of our chicken required detailed and thoughtful planning over the past year, including utilizing the USDA's Process Verified program to ensure our suppliers can meet our requirements. We're proud to make a commitment this expansive and believe this change will aid in shifting the rest of the industry."

In addition to its antibiotics pledge, the company aims to halt the use of artificial colors and flavors in its core products by the end of next year. Today, all KFC chicken (and most of its menu) is free of food dyes, and 100% of the menu is scheduled to be food dye-free by the end of 2017 (excluding beverages and third-party products).