THE move by the world’s biggest fast food chain McDonald’s to reduce the use of antibiotics in its global beef supply has not taken Australia’s beef industry by surprise.
Maintaining the efficacy of antimicrobials so that infections in both humans and animals remain treatable has been a focus for all businesses along the beef supply chain for many years.
It has been identified as a key priority in the industry’s sustainability framework, with the plan based around stewardship to decrease use over time and resistance.
McDonald’s this week announced a new policy for 85 per cent of its beef supply, including Australia, aimed at reducing the use of antibiotics.
The company said antibiotic resistance was one of the biggest threats to global health and food security and it wanted to use it’s scale to “tackle some of the most complicated challenges facing people, animals and our planet - and help drive industry-wide progress.”
McDonald’s noted, however, that reducing the overall use of medically-important antibiotics in beef was “complex and cannot be accomplished overnight.”
It’s plan is to firstly partner with supplying beef producers in its top 10 beef sourcing markets to measure and understand current usage of antibiotics.
“By the end of 2020, based on what we have learned, we will establish reduction targets for medically-important antibiotics for these markets and starting in 2022 we will be reporting progress against antibiotic reduction targets across our top 10 beef sourcing markets,” a statement from the company said.
Included with Australia in the “top 10” are Brazil, the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Australian beef industry leaders and veterinarians said they had been well prepared for this development and it was not just McDonald’s signalling changes to antibiotic usage policy - the EU, for example, has also been active in the space.
Beef Sustainability Framework chair Tess Herbert said antimicrobial stewardship programs would be very important going forward.
“The key is sustainable management. It is important to recognise we should not remove tools that producers have in their basket and it is also important to put an evidence-based lense around some of the calls,” she said.
Progressive producers were already well down the track of holistic animal health plans, she said.
The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association had taken the lead by developing a stewardship guideline on the responsible use of antimicrobials, Ms Herbert said.
This is based around regularly reviewing and evaluating best practices, adopting preventative measures to reduce the need for medically-important antimicrobials and replacing where possible without compromising the health of the animal.