MASSPIRG urges McDonalds to stop purchasing meat raised with antibiotics

By Cecilia Prado

(MASSPIRG UMass Amherst)
(MASSPIRG UMass Amherst)

It’s no secret the popular fast-food chain McDonald’s has been selling meat raised with antibiotics. But the MASSPIRG Education Fund has recently launched a campaign it believes can pressure the powerful franchise to end it once and for all.

The movement involves spreading awareness about the practices of local businesses, and encouraging millennials to ask McDonald’s for an antibiotic-free menu.

Beth Ramey, the MASSPIRG organizer at the University of Massachusetts, said this strategy has the potential to work because of McDonald’s sensitivity toward public opinion.

“We want people to know that this isn’t too big of a problem to tackle. They can make a difference,” Ramey said.

The organization is also starting an advertising campaign, organizing press events encouraging young people to boycott the food establishment and using social media to state their opinion about its practices.

Students who are participating in the campaign are increasing their social media presence. Some students have already participated by uploading pictures on the UMass MASSPIRG Facebook page with the McDonald’s logo and signs with hashtags such as “#MeatOurNeeds” and “#NotAHappyMeal.”

An official report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that at least two million Americans fall ill from antibiotic resistant infections each year, causing at least 23,000 deaths per year. According to CDC director Tom Frieden, humanity could be facing a “post-antibiotic era” if no actions are taken.

One of the biggest causes for the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains is the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. According to the Food and Drug Administration and the Natural Resources Defense Council, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used on livestock and poultry.

Despite the public health consequences, farmers routinely administrate the drugs to otherwise healthy animals in order to promote growth, and prevent contracting infections caused by the unsanitary conditions they live in. The FDA also mentioned in its 2012 annual report that the amount of antibiotics crucial to human health sold to farms grew by 16 percent from 2009 to 2012.

McDonalds is the single largest purchaser of meat products in the United States. Each year, it serves about one billion pounds of beef. In 2003, the company launched a policy asking providers to reduce the amount of antibiotics used in their animals. However, it does not apply to all suppliers and does not include the use of antibiotics to prevent disease from unhealthy living conditions.

According to a press release, MASSPIRG activists believe that tacking this company’s practices would significantly reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics in the nation, and lead toward the eradication of the problem.

“Being a public health issue, this wouldn’t only benefit McDonald’s costumers,” Ramey said. “It would benefit all of us.”

Cecilia Prado can be reached at [email protected]