Animal health activists to KFC: Time to jump on the antibiotic-free train

Auntie Biotic

Animal health activists have been pushing fast food chains to switch to antibiotic-free meat supplies. Now, one group has a message for Kentucky Fried Chicken: Time to jump on the bandwagon.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) launched a campaign to urge KFC and its parent company Yum Brands ($YUM) to phase out chicken raised with antibiotics from its meat supply. The campaign features a pill-covered chicken named Auntie Biotic that makes an appearance in a series of online videos.

In one video, the chicken--which dons a vest reading “KFC: Get Your Chickens Off Antibiotics”--stands outside one of KFC’s restaurants and speaks directly into the camera while flapping its wings. “I am here to tell (Yum COO) Roger Eaton of KFC to get its chickens off antibiotics. We’ve been drugged enough!” the chicken says agitatedly.  

As part of the campaign, the NRDC created an online petition addressed to Eaton and promoted its efforts on social media including Twitter and Facebook.

The group also rolled out mobile billboard advertising near KFC’s Louisville, KY, headquarters. The mobile ads will run during a local Yum Brands shareholder meeting, the group said.

“KFC’s antibiotics policies are not finger lickin’ good for public health,” Lena Brook, a food policy advocate at the NRDC, said in a statement. The fried chicken maker is lagging behind fast food peers such as Chick-Fil-A, Subway and Taco Bell, which have already committed to phasing out antibiotics in their chicken.

KFC on its website has said that it will follow the FDA’s phase-out of antibiotics. The agency in 2013 issued guidance that would curtail the use of antimicrobial drugs in food animals and production.

But the NRDC doesn’t see this move as having enough impact. “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,” the group said in a statement.

The NRDC’s work hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. Earlier this year, the group and more than 80 other organizations sent a letter to Yum, calling on the company to improve its antibiotics policies. The move prompted Taco Bell to agree to stop using antibiotics in its chicken by the end of Q1 2017.

"The taco giant’s commitment shows the tide in the marketplace is continuing to turn for antibiotics overuse,” Jonathan Kaplan, director of the NRDC’s Food and Agriculture program, said at the time. “We look forward to a more detailed plan for making these improvements, including for how consumers will be able to verify that Taco Bell is keeping its word. The company’s fast food peers--and especially its sister restaurant chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken--should take note and follow shortly behind.”

- here's the statement
- watch the video on the NRDC’s website
- read more about KFC’s antibiotics policies

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