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Papa John’s International on Monday signed up to the Better Chicken Pledge, the joint initiative of the global farmers’ organisation Poultry Council of Europe and the US’s National Chicken Council to eradicate the use of antibiotics on industrial chicken flocks.
The initiative was launched last year and was backed by the US’s biggest poultry producer, Tyson Foods, and the wholesale egg group, Cornucopia.
Papa John’s said it already had several processes in place to reduce the use of antibiotics in its supply chain, which includes any possible exposure to its food.
But the pizza chain said that adopting the Better Chicken Pledge meant it would commit to eliminating antibiotics from its chicken supply chain “in the next six months”.
Mr John Schnatter, chief executive of Papa John’s, said: “Papa John’s pride ourselves on delivering an outstanding product to our customers, and we take our role in working to reform the global food system seriously.”
The pledge is the latest in a series of moves by restaurants to counter public concern about use of antibiotics in animal feed, aimed at curbing the spread of animal diseases in crowded and unsanitary conditions and reducing sales of antibiotics to the human food chain.
Papa John’s will now roll out its commitment, which says it will “significantly reduce the use of medically important antibiotics in chickens over time”, to its 4,400 restaurants in the US over the next two years.
There are thousands of chicken farms across the US, many of which are so large they require up to a million birds to be raised for breeding purposes.
Many of these farms are operated by large food processors such as Tyson Foods and Foster Farms. Critics have expressed concern that their use of antibiotics to extend the lives of birds could introduce new antibiotic-resistant strains into the human food chain.
Karen Couvertier, president of the poultry council of Europe, said: “We welcome and applaud the announcement from one of the largest food companies in the US to adopt an absolute commitment to eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics in the treatment or growth promotion of their chicken.”