Exclusive: Yum's KFC to curb antibiotic use in the chickens it buys

Fri Apr 7, 2017 9:26pm EDT
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By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc's (YUM.N: Quote) U.S. KFC chain plans to curb the use of antibiotics in its chicken supply, making it the last of the big three chicken restaurants to join the fight against the rise of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs.

KFC, the second-biggest U.S. chicken chain by sales after privately held Chick-fil-A, is giving its U.S. poultry suppliers until the end of 2018 to stop using antibiotics important to human medicine.

Some 70 percent of antibiotics vital for fighting infections in humans are sold for use in meat and dairy production and medical researchers have concerns that overuse of those drugs may diminish their effectiveness in fighting disease in humans.

McDonald's Corp's (MCD.N: Quote) roughly 14,000 U.S. restaurants last year stopped serving chicken raised with antibiotics considered important to human medicine. Its Chicken McNuggets are a top seller and the change put pressure on the rest of the industry to follow.

Chick-fil-A is going a step further, vowing in 2014 to switch to poultry raised without any antibiotics at all by the end of 2019.

Given its stature, KFC had been the focus of several antibiotic reduction campaigns by consumer, health and environment groups in addition to a coalition of British and U.S. shareholders with more than $2 trillion in assets under management.

"We recognize that it's a growing public health concern," KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman told Reuters on Thursday.

"This is something that's important to many of our customers and it's something we need to do to show relevance and modernity within our brand," Hochman said.   Continued...

A Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket of mixed fried and grilled chicken.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri