The Los Angeles Unified School District has announced a new antibiotic-free standard for chicken products supplied to its schools, making it among the first of the country's large school districts to make the switch. Not only that, the new standards require that all chicken products must be produced under a USDA Process Verified Program that includes compliance with the following:
- No animal byproducts in the feed.
- Raised on an all-vegetarian diet.
- Humanely raised as outlined in the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines.
- No antibiotics ever.
According to the new guidelines, “If a food company cannot supply the full volume of 'No Antibiotics Ever' chicken during procurement, a written plan as to when the supplier will meet the standard will be required. In the meantime, the supplier must have the capacity for USDA Process Verified (third party) for Therapeutic Use Only chicken as defined in the Natural Resources Defense Council's “Support for Antibiotic Stewardship in Poultry Production” dated December 2013; or School Food FOCUS /The Pew Charitable Trust's “Purchasing Guidelines That Minimize the Use of Antibiotics in Poultry Production” dated September 2014.”
Damn. They mean business!
On Dec. 9, the Board of Education at LAUSD also approved the 2014 Good Food Procurement Resolution that calls for antibiotic- and hormone-free standards in its food-procurement guidelines.
“The passing of the resolution shows the bold steps school districts are taking to ensure the health and wellness of students,” said LAUSD Deputy Food Services Director Laura Benavidez. “Providing the best possible, highest quality food for students shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a standard.”
The LAUSD is part of a group called the Urban School Food Alliance, a coalition of the largest school districts in the United States that also includes New York City, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando. All will be adhering to the new chicken standards. Chicken was singled out because it is one of the most popular items served at cafeterias across the country.
“Purchasing meat and poultry raised without the unnecessary use of antibiotics is critical to ensuring the safety of our children,” said Mark Izeman, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the nation’s leading environmental and public health organizations and a nonprofit partner of the Alliance that helped develop the antibiotic-free standard. “This transformational move will not only have a dramatic impact on the quality of school meals, but will also help push the entire food industry to move away from animals raised with improper antibiotic use.”
According to the NRDC, the vast majority of antibiotics in this country are used in animal agriculture—and often not to treat sick animals but to speed up animal growth and to compensate for unsanitary conditions common at industrial farms. This misuse in meat and poultry production contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which travel off of farms and into our communities— not just on the meat itself, but also in our soil, air and water. Leading public health and medical organizations including the World Health Organization have warned that the widespread overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animals contributes to the dangerous rise of antibiotic resistance in humans.
Serving nearly 2.9 million students daily, Alliance members procure more than $550 million in food and supplies annually. The Alliance was formed two years ago to use its purchasing power to continue to drive quality up and costs down while incorporating sound environmental practices.