What Are These Fast Food Restaurants Doing?


Do you eat fast food?

Of course you do.

It’s hard to avoid the siren call of fast, cheap, stupidly sweet and salty manufactured munchies.

We know it’s terrible for us, but we’ll all inevitably find ourselves in a hangry haze stuck in the drive-thru or ordering through (Insert Preferred Meal Delivery App) after a night of guzzling too many gin and tonics.

Or is this just me?

Anyway, it’s clear that fast food chains aren’t lauded for their ability to better our health, but some are slightly better than others, and we always have a choice of which chains we support.

I wish I could say that we had fast food options all over the world that offered local, organic, free-range, grass-fed meats that are safer, healthier and more responsible, but that’s a pipe dream. What we do have is a very small step (with large implications) in the right direction: certain fast food joints are addressing and correcting the overuse/misuse of antibiotics in their farmers’ livestock production (meat).

Why are antibiotics an issue?

Well, their intended use is for bacterial infections, but most “fast food farmers” add antibiotic drugs to all of their animals’ feed and water at once, regardless of their health or lack thereof. This is either to promote faster growth and weight gain or to prevent disease caused by the horrid conditions of factory farms.

The overuse of these drugs leads to the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that’s considered to be “among the top threats to global public health” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and at least 2 million get sick.

Common infections that we’ve easily gotten rid of in the past are now possibly becoming life-threatening.


Fast food chains play a central role in this problem. The world’s appetite for meat, especially fast and cheap, is nothing short of mind-blowingly, unfathomably astronomical. I won’t go down the rabbit hole of the countless issues associated with our meat consumption, but due to our insatiable appetites, the meat industry has responded with factory farming that’s at the detriment to all living things and our planet.

Pretty intense.

So which fast food chains are sourcing their meat from farms with “responsible” or no antibiotic use?

Below are the results from Chain Reaction IV, a report issued every year (it began in 2015) by six public interest organizations that grades the top 25 U.S. fast food/fast casual restaurants for their antibiotic use “policies and practices”.







For more detailed information on scoring methodology and additional analysis, go here and open or download the report.

Shake Shack and BurgerFi are in a class of their own because they only serve beef without the use of antibiotics.

Chipotle, Panera Bread and Chick-Fil-A only serve beef, pork and/or chicken without the routine use of antibiotics. Chick-Fil-A is on track to meeting its “No Antibiotics Ever” in 100% of its chicken by the end of 2019.

As for 2nd and 3rd Place, these companies are “taking meaningful steps to eliminate routine use of medically important antibiotics in the meat they source” through company policy. Portions of their meat supply may be sourced from farmers who only use antibiotics for sick animals.

This is all a step in the right direction. The key is to gain small wins pertaining to the fast food industry’s role in being more responsible to the health of humans, animals and our planet. Massive issues plague the industry’s practices and we need massive change, but small and gradual steps like this move us toward a better system.

Then we hopefully won’t have to die from simple bacterial infections. Cheers!

Unless otherwise annotated, all facts within this post are sourced from Chain Reaction IV (which contains its own legitimate source references).