US faith investors target McDonald’s over antibiotics in meat production with AGM resolution

ICCR member tackles what it says are double standards at fast food giant

McDonald’s is the target of a new US shareholder campaign urging the fast food chain to stop using antibiotics important to human medicine in meat production.

Texas-based Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Boerne, a member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), has tabled a shareholder resolution at the company.

Eighty percent of all antibiotics in the US and 50% in Europe are used on factory farms. The overuse of these medicines has been cited as a major factor in human antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic-resistant infections cause over 2m human illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year in the US. The Sisters withdrew a shareholder resolution concerning antibiotic use this year after McDonald’s USA announced in March that it would phase out chicken produced with antibiotics important to human health. Sister Susan Mika said: “We question why this important commitment isn’t also being applied to the beef and pork it sources, as hamburgers are a mainstay of McDonald’s business.“This double-standard makes no sense to us; what’s good for the goose, ought to be good for the gander, or in this case, the whole farmyard.”

The ICCR says other members who are McDonald’s investors plan to file proposals. The ICCR has 300 member organisations with over $100bn in assets under management, who this year filed 251 shareholder proposals at 186 companies.

ICCR members are also engaging with Hormel Foods Corp., which produces spam meat, and Merck Animal Health, which manufactures veterinary medicine, on the use of antibiotics in meat production.

Investor attention towards the use of antibiotics in food farming is also growing across the pond in the UK through the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) initiative started by private equity chief Jeremy Coller. It sets out to identify the risks and opportunities around farm welfare issues and cites the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms as a key investment risk. Link