Chick-fil-A is abandoning its “no antibiotics” chicken claim and will start this spring to serve chicken that may have been given antibiotics.

According to the company’s statement, it’s changing its policy from “No Antibiotics Ever (NAE)” to “No Antibiotics Important To Human Medicine (NAIHM).” It further states that while the NAE policy was enforced with no exception, the NAHIM policy is looser and only allows use of animal-focused antibiotics “if the animal and those around it were to become sick.”

This news comes a decade after Chick-fil-A announced it would be antibiotic-free, per a 2014 news release.

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A company spokesperson shared to The Associated Press that the company’s change reflects challenges with acquiring enough supply of antibiotic-free chicken.

The company promises to serve “only real, white breast meat with no added fillers, artificial preservatives, or steroids” along with no added hormones, per the statement.

Since its founding, Chick-fil-A continues to follow its Animal Well-being Standards to ensure the chicken served is “quality food, made with care.” Some of its standards for chicken suppliers include:

  • Only using chickens hatched, raised and harvested in the U.S.
  • Holding cage-free chickens in climate-controlled barns.
  • Chickens are raised with proper nutrition and minimal stress.

Industry trends and the bird flu

It’s become more common in the industry for chickens to have antibiotics. Last summer, Tyson ended an eight-year pledge of not using antibiotics and instead transitioned to a NAIHM policy like what Chick-fil-A will soon have, CNN reported. Pilgrim’s Pride has incorporated a similar antibiotic policy as well.

Not every major chicken processor has implemented such policies. Perdue has reportedly kept to NAE standards for processing chicken, per The Associated Press.

The push for antibiotics comes among reports of the avian flu, or bird flu, causing the culling of more than 82 million flocks across North America — an outbreak that has occurred since 2022 and has led to chicken and egg price increases, as previously reported by the Deseret News.

While antibiotics cannot treat this specific disease, they can treat several other diseases that can be fatal to chickens, according to CNN.

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Reasons behind using antibiotics

Companies are using antibiotics are to protect the chickens. The FDA claims that they are used “to prevent and treat infections caused by bacteria.”

And when properly administered through quality stewardship — like with humans — they can continue to become effective against certain diseases.

Along with protecting chicken’s health, The Associated Press adds that antibiotics are used to help livestock — such as cows, pigs and chickens — gain weight quickly to increase business profits.

However, the inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance within livestock and humans, causing some to potential developments of harmful bacteria.

When livestock are resistant to antibiotics and develop bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter, not only can that bacteria transfer to humans, but any remaining antibiotic residue can interfere with human antibiotic effectiveness, per CBS News.

Because of these complications, government agencies such as the World Health Organization have developed risk assessments to prevent antibiotic resistance from occurring among animal production.

In the agency’s 2007 report accessed by CNN, it advises “an appropriate balance” when considering “between animal health needs and human health considerations.”

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