Wendy's released its annual update on the strides made to further its corporate social responsibility initiatives, including progress it has made in the area of its animal antibiotic policies. The company announced a goal of eliminating the routine use of medically important antibiotics while protecting the need for targeted, therapeutic use of an antibiotic in the limited cases where a sick animal needs to be treated individually or the animals have been exposed to an illness and treatment with an antibiotic is necessary to prevent a disease outbreak.
Wendy's said it has completed the process of eliminating all antibiotics important to human medicine from chicken production. All chicken served in Wendy's restaurants meets this requirement and will be process verified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure compliance going forward.
On the beef side, Wendy's currently sources only fed cattle, which are animals raised specifically for high-quality beef grades such as USDA Prime, Choice and Select. This higher specification, the company said, means the animals are younger and healthier and likely require less medical treatment than older animals.
This year, the company also engaged with the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and announced that, beginning in 2018, Wendy's will source about 15% of its beef from this group of producers that have each committed to a 20% reduction in the only medically important antibiotic routinely fed to their cattle.
“Importantly, these producers will ensure that the antibiotic use in their cattle can be tracked and reduced,” Wendy's said, adding that it is committed to increasing the amount of beef purchased from these producers and those following similar management practices.
For pork, Wendy's sources only from market hogs, which also tend to be younger and healthier and likely require less medical treatment than older animals. In addition, the company’s supply chain is 100% part of the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program and operates under the federal Veterinary Feed Directive, which requires veterinary oversight of antibiotic use. As a next step, the company said it is working with suppliers who are like-minded in their approach to this issue, with an eye toward progressively decreasing the use of antibiotics.
“In the future, Wendy's plans on working with pork producers to quantify the reductions in antibiotic use and is committed to reporting on this progress,” the company said.
Expanded supplier code of conduct
In 2017, Wendy's expanded its Supplier Code of Conduct to include all U.S. and Canadian contracts managed by Quality Supply Chain Cooperative (QSCC) -- the sole authorized purchasing organization for Wendy's and its North American franchised restaurants -- and to other suppliers that provide a significant stream of goods or services to The Wendy's Co. on an annual basis, beyond those suppliers managed by QSCC. The code is centered on five areas: (1) food safety and food ingredients, (2) farm animal health and well-being, (3) human rights and labor practices, (4) environmentally sustainable business practices and (5) business ethics and integrity.
The code's provisions were also expanded to include additional assurances and requirements related to human rights and labor practices, and Wendy's now requires third-party reviews related to human rights and labor practices for certain suppliers of hand-harvested, whole, fresh produce.
For the second year in a row, Wendy's said it achieved 100% acknowledgement of the code by designated suppliers and continues to make progress on developing a plan to expand the scope and application of the code to the international supply community.
Chicken quality and cage-free eggs
Wendy's said it has taken steps to address a chicken quality issue called “woody breast,” after consumers expressed concerns related to the toughness and texture of chicken breasts. Wendy's announced in February 2017 a partnership with its suppliers to make a system-wide, $30 million investment and purchase chickens that are 20% smaller than conventional, which it said surpasses the standards of other restaurant brands.
“This change significantly and immediately improved the tenderness and juiciness of Wendy's chicken, which included the fourth-quarter launch of Wendy's new Chicken Tenders,” the company said.
Wendy's also pointed out that it continues to make progress in its journey towards 100% cage-free whole egg purchasing, noting that it continues to evaluate best practices related to poultry housing for both laying hens and broiler chickens through regular engagement with its Animal Welfare Council and leading suppliers.