KFC plans stop using chicken that contains antibiotics in the U.S. by the end of 2018, becoming the latest fast-food chain to move toward a more natural product.
The chain, with 4,200 restaurants across the nation, said Friday it is cutting antibiotics from both its boneless and on-the-bone chicken.
Other quick-service chains, such as Chipotle, McDonald's, Burger King, Panera and Wendy's, have made similar pledges to eliminate antibiotics in their chicken. But KFC said it believes it is on the cutting edge in trying to go without antibiotics when it comes to on-the-bone chicken.
Treating farm animals with antibiotics can cause resistant bacteria to grow and if people are infected from improper handling or cooking, they run the risk of serious illness or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control,
"We share the public’s concern about...antimicrobial resistance," said Kevin Hochman, president of KFC U.S.
According to KFC, the move won't result in higher prices for consumers because the cost increase is small enough that the company can absorb it. But it won't be easy. Hochman says growers will have to raise more chickens in order to meet KFC's size demands without the antibiotics. On the plus side, the move could result in generally healthier birds since farms will be less crowded.
KFC worked with more than 2,000 farms, most of them family-owned and managed, in a dozen states to implement the new policy.
"To extend our commitment beyond our boneless menu items to all of our chicken required detailed and thoughtful planning over the past year, including utilizing the USDA’s Process Verified program to ensure our suppliers can meet our requirements," said Vijay Sukumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC U.S.. "We’re proud to make a commitment this expansive and believe this change will aid in shifting the rest of the industry."
The move is part of the chain's attempt to get back to its roots, an image overhaul the company calls "re-Colonelization" -- a reference to its iconic founder Col. Harland Sanders.
KFC also recently pledged to eliminate artificial colors and flavors from all of its core products by the end of 2018 and to have 100% of the menu, except for drinks and third-party products, free of food dyes by the end of this year.