McDonald’s Corp. announced that it is phasing out the use of chicken with antibiotics over the next two years. The company announced that it will only source “chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine,” reports ABC News.

McDonald's U.S. restaurants will also offer customers milk from cows that are not treated with rbST, an artificial growth hormone.

"Our customers want food that they feel great about eating -- all the way from the farm to the restaurant -- and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations," said McDonald's U.S President Mike Andres.

The National Resources Defense Council praised the decision. Jonathan Kaplan, director of NRDC’s Food and Agriculture program, issued the following statement:

“This is a landmark announcement in the fight to keep life-saving antibiotics working for us and our children. The country’s largest fast food chain has committed to working with their suppliers to keep these drugs out of the barns used to raise the chickens for their nuggets, salads and sandwiches. In doing so, they are setting the bar for the entire fast food industry. If these are verifiable, given this company’s massive purchasing power and iconic brand, we may be at a tipping point for better antibiotic stewardship in the poultry industry.

“Hopefully, chicken is just the start – the Big Mac and McRib may be next. McDonald’s ‘Global Vision’ statement acknowledges the need to curb antibiotics use across their pork and beef supply chains too. Unfortunately, the statement does not include a ban on the use of all medically-important antibiotics in routine disease prevention, a practice known to contribute to antibiotic resistance. We urge McDonald’s to close this loophole in their ‘Global Vision’ statement, and to apply their new U.S. chicken antibiotics curbs to all their restaurants globally.

The National Chicken Council also has issued a statement about McDonald’s announcement. Dr. Ashley Peterson, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, stated:

"The top priority of farmers and chicken companies is to raise healthy chickens, because healthy chickens are directly related to a safe food supply.  Responsible, FDA-approved veterinary treatment and prevention benefits animal welfare and human health by reducing the need for increased doses of antibiotics in the event of widespread disease.  

"The vast majority of these antibiotics are never used in humans.  McDonald's, veterinarians and animal scientists recognize their importance to minimize the use of those antibiotics that are important in human medicine.    

"Chicken producers have a vested interest in protecting the effectiveness of antibiotics, for the welfare of their animals; as such, we've proactively and voluntarily taken steps toward finding alternative ways to control disease while reducing antibiotic use.  For almost two years, chicken producers have been working with the FDA, farmers and veterinarians to phase out the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine for growth promotion purposes in animals.

"While antibiotics that are important to human medicine are minimally used when raising chickens, by December 2016 under FDA guidance, these antibiotics will be labeled for use in food animals only to prevent disease and treat sick birds, and will be used exclusively under the supervision and prescription of a veterinarian.

"Chicken producers are in the business of providing choice, are committed to innovation and producing a wide range of chicken products for a wide range of consumers." 

Sources: ABC News, National Chicken Council, NRDC