From the no-frills menu to the juicy burgers and secret sauce, what’s not to love about In-N-Out?
Apparently one thing, according to some vocal fans: The company is still using meat from animals that are fed antibiotics.
On Thursday, representatives from more than 30 consumer and environmental groups sent a letter to the California-based chain asking it to stop serving meat produced with the drugs.
Last year, a larger group of consumer organisations sent In-N-Out a similar letter. The company responded, stating it was “committed to beef that is not raised with antibiotics important to human medicine,” and promised to ask its suppliers to look for alternatives. They did not set down any specific dates for achieving those goals, however.
The newest letter asks the chain to set a timeline for using antibiotic-free meat.
“It’s time for In-N-Out Burger to stop dragging its feet and make good on its promise to require its meat suppliers to improve practices and end the misuse of antibiotics,” Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and technology at the nonprofit organisation Friends of the Earth, said in a press release.
The practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals has become routine. When first introduced, it was seen as a helpful tool to keep infections in livestock at bay. But the drugs started getting fed in excess to animals like pigs, cattle, and chickens. C
lose to 70% of those antibiotics are the same ones doctors use to fight infections in people.
Research suggests that overusing antibiotics — both on farms and in hospitals — fuels a dangerous scenario in which strong bacteria called superbugs no longer respond to the drugs we prescribe to treat them. That makes more and more drugs necessary, creating a vicious cycle that creates even stronger bacteria.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that as many as half of all antibiotic prescriptions given out in the US are unnecessary. It is a practice that comes with deadly consequences. The CDC estimates that roughly 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections.
New federal restrictions on antibiotic use in animals went into effect January 1, so meat and poultry producers are now prohibited from using antibiotics that are medically important for humans to promote animal growth. All medically important antibiotics that producers feed to animals for health reasons must also now get veterinarian approval, which was not the case in the past.
Even with those restrictions, however, antibiotic use is still common on large-scale farms. If In-N-Out chooses to respond to the letters, the chain would join a handful of other restaurants that have promised to phase out meat produced with antibiotics, including Chipotle and McDonald’s.
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