Fast Food Chains Under Scrutiny After “Beef Report”

Daily, thousands of people will enter one of the millions of fast food restaurants scattered across the country and order a meal. Maybe it wasn’t the healthiest choice they could have made, but in the scheme of things, how bad could one sandwich really be? The horrifying truth is: lethal.

In a recent “Chain Reaction” report conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, they found that 22 out of the 25 restaurant chains they investigated in the U.S. had not taken proper steps in the elimination of antibiotics in their ground beef.

Big Beef

The meat industry in the U.S. is well known for its practices of dosing livestock with antibiotics to encourage quick growth and to prevent infection, a seemingly necessary precaution due to the grim environment provided by the feedlots where cattle are kept and “finished”.

Keeping rampant disease at bay certainly sounds like a good thing but studies done by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that this heavy use of antibiotics will result in the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The logical conclusion of this would be a future in which common infections could once again become life-threatening. In the U.S. alone 23,000 individuals die from resistant infections annually. The overuse of antibiotics has been directly linked to the contribution and spread of this antibiotic resistance.

A major point brought to the forefront of the controversy sites some very worrying statistics. According to their report, 70% of medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are used on food-producing animals, 43% of those on cattle alone. The sheer amount of antibiotics being pumped into our food seems cause for concern.

Give the People What They Want

Consumers want restaurants to serve meat raised without antibiotics and they’re willing to pay extra for it. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 60% of consumers reviewed said they were willing to pay more for antibiotic-free beef. Unfortunately, the fast food industry doesn’t seem to be listening. Out of the 25 burger chains reviewed all but two, BurgerFi and Shake Shack, received failing grades. These chains receiving failing grades not only served poorly sourced meat but none of the chains had a plan or contacts for sourcing better beef in the future. Clean meat, as of 2019, has not become a priority for fast food restaurants in the U.S.

The Future of Burgers

Public health organizations are trying to raise public awareness through reviews and research such as the Chain Reaction report mentioned above. The efforts to raise awareness have increased recently to inform and fight the popular methods of meat sourcing currently in practice.

Fast food restaurants, as some of America’s largest meat purchasers, can play an instrumental role in pushing producers to use antibiotics responsibly. A change that has already taken place largely within the poultry industry. It is the World Health Industries’ supreme desire that the beef industry will be close behind.

Though change may come at a glacial pace, in the wake of these recent events, it seems imminent.


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Hannah Abaffy

Pastry Chef & Recipe Development

Hannah Abaffy is a pastry chef and an active member of the culinary community. From working in kitchens to developing recipes, and creating menus for restaurants, she has been involved with food in one capacity or another for the past decade. After starting a food history blog, Hannah has been continuously writing and learning about the ever-changing realm of cuisine, its history, and its future. Since then her appetite to learn about and share all things that touch upon the world of food can only be described as voracious.

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