The 12 Worst Restaurants for Antibiotics in Beef

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Worried about antibiotics creeping into your food supply? The next time you want food on the go, make sure to head for Chipotle or Panera.

The restaurants were the only fast-food or fast-casual chains in America to get a grade at the “A” level in the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 2021 Chain Reaction report, which measures efforts by 20 top restaurant chains to reduce the use of antibiotics in the beef supply.

In this year’s rankings, Chipotle earned an A while Panera earned an A-. This was the sixth consecutive year the chains secured these grades.

The Chain Reaction report ranks restaurants based on their policies regarding antibiotic use in their beef supply chains. According to the U.S. PIRG:

“The overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms contributes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause life-threatening infections in people. We need our life-saving medicines to work, and because fast food companies are some of the largest buyers of meat, they are uniquely positioned to address this public health crisis.”

Chipotle and Panera Bread are the only two chains that source a “significant amount” of beef that has been raised without the routine use of antibiotics, the U.S. PIRG says.

In fact, none of the other chains included in the report were able to crack the A or B grade levels in the rankings, and an F was the most common grade, earned by 12 restaurant chains this year.

The 20 restaurant chains that the U.S. PIRG ranked in 2021, by grade earned, are:

  • A’s: Chipotle (A), Panera Bread (A-)
  • B’s: n/a
  • C’s: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway
  • D’s: Taco Bell, Applebee’s, IHOP
  • F’s: Burger King, Olive Garden, Starbucks, Panda Express, Little Caesars, Domino’s, Sonic, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings, Pizza Hut

There were some improvements among lower-ranked chains. The U.S. PIRG says Wendy’s leaped from a D+ to a C this year due to its pledge to end the routine use of medically important antibiotics in its beef supplies by the end of 2030.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s did not meet a self-imposed deadline of setting targets to reduce medically important antibiotic use by the end of 2020. Thus, it remained stuck at a C for the second straight report.

Most other chains have no established policy restricting antibiotic use in beef supply chains, the U.S. PIRG notes.

The U.S. PIRG is urging policymakers to mandate that beef producers use medically important antibiotics only when under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian and “to treat animals diagnosed with an illness or to control a verified disease outbreak.”

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