Six of the largest school districts in the United States are switching serving antibiotic-free chicken in their cafeterias.
The districts in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Miami-Dade County and Orlando County have agreed to make the change, citing concerns about antibiotic resistance and human health.
“We're landing in a place that the scientists agree is the right direction," Leslie Fowler, executive director of nutrition support services for Chicago Public Schools, said.
However, a switch to exclusively serving chicken raised without antibiotics could cost the school districts more, as it costs producers more money to raise birds without using antibiotics and mortality rates are higher. But the six districts, which served at least 2.6 million meals in 2013, hope to limit costs by combining their purchasing power, officials said.
The switch is expected to take several years as contracts with food vendors expire and meat producers respond to the new standards. Some major U.S. poultry companies have said they would not be able to adjust their production systems quickly to raise more chickens without the use of antibiotics, and in those cases, Fowler said, school districts will require suppliers to explain when they can meet the new standards.