Investors press meat and restaurant companies to reevaluate antibiotics over-use

Nov 17th 2016

In 2017 Shareholder Resolutions, Investors Call on McDonald’s, Sanderson Farms and Yum Brands to Implement Policies that Eliminate Antibiotics Vital to Human Health in Poultry, Pork and Beef Products.

NEW YORK, NY, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17TH, 2016 – Shareholders in meat and restaurant brands and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility today announced a campaign to move companies offering chicken, beef and pork products to dramatically reduce the antibiotics used in animal farming to safeguard antibiotic effectiveness in humans.

Antibiotics are administered by major food producers to livestock (chickens, pigs and cows) routinely to prevent disease because these animals are raised on “factory farms” in confined and overcrowded pens where viruses easily spread. Public health officials have been sounding the alarm about growing antibiotic resistance in humans as a result of their overuse in animals but the meat industry has been very slow to respond. The resolutions were filed to accelerate a response from the industry and in the hopes that policies will be adopted within the coming year.

Shareholder advocates have addressed antibiotic resistance for more than a decade with meat producers Hormel, Tyson, and most recently, Sanderson Farms, but these efforts greatly increased in 2015 with an expanded focus on restaurant chains including McDonald’s, Darden, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Yum! Brands. Investors say the issue creates financial risks for shareholders as threats of regulatory and legal action mount and consumers increasingly prefer meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics.

In a separate letter organized by FAIRR, ShareAction, ICCR and As You Sow  investors worth over $1 trillion are calling on companies to prohibit non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics. FAIRR and ShareAction are European organizations advocating on this issue, proof that the question of antibiotics effectiveness has global relevance both as a public health concern and a potential risk for investors.

Said ICCR member Austin Wilson of As You Sow who filed the resolutions at Sanderson Farms and Yum! Brands, “Companies that continue to drag their feet do so at their own peril. Consumer preferences are rapidly changing to sustainable and safe food choices, even among populations not typically concerned with healthy eating, and companies offering antibiotic-free choices will have an advantage over their competitors.”

Said Sr. Susan Mika of the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, Texas, who leads ICCR’s engagement with McDonald’s on antibiotics, We all need to do our part to curb unnecessary antibiotic use given that the spread of human resistance has intensified. We commend McDonald’s for fulfilling its commitment to no longer serve chicken in the U.S. raised on antibiotics that are important to human medicine, but the company needs to go further and set goals and timelines for all meats it offers globally, to have a deeper impact on public health and shareholder value.”

The resolutions are scheduled to appear on the companies’ proxy ballots to be voted on by shareholders in the spring of 2017.

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 45th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300 member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $200 billion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability on questions such as climate change, corporate water stewardship, sustainable food production, human trafficking and slavery in global supply chains and increased access to financial and health care services for communities in need.