The company doesnt have a timeline to reduce the amount of medically important antibiotics in its beef or pork supply chains.
The company doesn't have a timeline to reduce the amount of medically important antibiotics in its beef or pork supply chains. Joe Raedle/Getty

As I noted in this week's Back to School article on urinary tract infections (fun!), researchers are linking antibiotics used in raising farm animals to strains of drug-resistant bacteria found in humans. For this reason, activist and food safety groups have long called on fast food chains—some of the biggest buyers of meat in the US—to put pressure on their supply chains to stop using "medically important antibiotics" in raising animals.

A new report authored by six nonprofit food safety and animal rights groups says some fast food chains are doing better than others. But hometown hero Starbucks received a D+, a failing grade, from the authors.

The report, from the Consumers Union, U.S. PIRG, NRDC, Center For Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, and the Food Animals Concerns Trust, rated plans from fast food companies to reduce antibiotic use in their supply chains. The good news is that many of them are making progress. Fourteen out of 25 companies, representing two-thirds of industry revenue, passed the report's test.

Starbucks, on the other hand, ranked lower on the report's scoring chart than KFC, McDonald's, and Taco Bell.

The company says that it has a goal to serve poultry raised without medically important antibiotics by 2020, but hasn't given a timeline for serving antibiotic-safe beef or pork. For that reason, the report notes, its policy "cannot be considered a comprehensive policy that addresses all of the meat it sources." The report also dinged Starbucks for not having an auditing system to follow through on its promises.

When reached for comment on the report, a Starbucks spokesperson repeated the company's pledge to serve antibiotic-safe poultry by 2020.

"Just as with our coffee, Starbucks goal is for everything we sell to be produced under high quality and ethical standards," the spokesperson wrote by e-mail. "We are committed to working with and buying from farmers and suppliers who share our commitment to humane practices throughout an animal’s lifecycle. We have a goal to serve only poultry raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics in all company operated U.S. stores by 2020, and are routinely engaging our suppliers to make progress towards this goal."