Subway says it will stop selling chicken raised with antibiotics next year

Sandwich chain Subway says it will begin offering chicken raised without human antibiotics sometime next year, and pledged to work on finding antibiotic-free options for all the meats it offers at its 44,000 chain restaurants.

The announcement came after the company was targeted by environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which have pressured other fast-food chains to publicly commit to phasing out meat raised with antibiotics, Nation's Restaurant News reported. McDonald's ($MCD), Chick-fil-A, Chipotle ($CMG) and Panera ($PNRA) have all announced their plans to phase out suppliers who use antibiotics in producing meat.

"We are working with our suppliers to find a cost-effective, quality solution for our franchisees and customers," Subway said in a statement. "We cannot provide a date when all the work will get done as the demand is somewhat higher than supply right now. However, we are targeting to transition to chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine in 2016."

In July, Perdue announced it is now raising more than half its birds without any antibiotics, either human or animal. Other chicken producers, including Tyson ($TSN), have vowed to eliminate the use of antibiotics that are important to human healthcare--a change being aggressively promoted by the Obama administration--but Perdue is the first to claim that the majority of its flocks are now being raised without any antibiotics.

The animal health industry has been under attack from some public health advocacy groups that believe companies aren't doing enough to eliminate the use of antibiotics for fattening up food animals. Among the critics is the NRDC that has taken a position that the White House plan still allows for the routine feeding of antibiotics to food animals and doesn't do enough to alleviate the over-crowding of livestock and poultry on farms.

Unrelated to its meats and under pressure from environmental activists, last year Subway removed the chemical azodicarbonamide from its breads. The chemical is also used to make yoga mats and other materials.

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