Subway announced today that it will eliminate all antibiotics from its meat supply in the company's roughly 27,000 U.S. locations over the next decade.
In doing so, the sandwich franchise joins a growing list of chains making public commitments to health and freshness. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell both set plans to phase out artificial flavors and coloring from their menu by the end of the year and Chipotle recently became the first national restaurant chain to go GMO-free.
The widespread use of antibiotics in livestock production has become top-of-mind for consumers as fears over the development of drug-resistant bacteria grows. Restaurant chains have taken action to address these concerns: Subway's pledge to phase out the use of antibiotic-raised meat follows similar commitments from Chick-fil-A, McDonalds (although the franchise is restricting, not banning, the use of antibiotics in its meat supply) and Chipotle.
“Today’s consumer is ever more mindful of what they are eating, and we’ve been making changes to address what they are looking for,” Dennis Clabby, executive vice president of Subway’s Independent Purchasing Cooperative, said in a statement.
Subway could certainly use a boost. Last year, sales fell 3.3 percent, the biggest decline among the major fast-food chains, according to a report by food-research firm Technomic.
The company expects its chicken will be completely antibiotic free by the end of 2016. Antibiotic-free turkey will be introduced next year, with a full transition taking place within three years. Finally, the company will eliminate antibiotics from its pork and beef supply by 2025.
Vani Hari, an outspoken food blogger who helped convince Chick-fil-A and others to rethink their ingredients, said consumer activist groups had gathered more than 250,000 signatures petitioning the chain for change. She counts the latest announcement as a victory for her cause.
“I thank Subway on the behalf of many to address this very critical public health issue,” she says. “Subway's commitment is a major wake up call to other restaurant chains not responsibly sourcing meat and will send shock waves through the entire meat industry.”