On Tuesday evening, the Urban School Food Alliance announced its new antibiotic-free standard for companies to follow when supplying chicken products to its schools. The Alliance is a coalition of the largest school districts in the U.S., includes New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando, and serves nearly 2.9 million students every day. Under the new standard, 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.

“The standards we’re asking from the manufacturers go above and beyond the quality of the chicken we normally purchase at local supermarkets,” said USFA Chairman Eric Goldstein and chief executive officer of School Support Services for the New York City Department of Education. “This move by the Alliance shows that school food directors across the country truly care about the health and wellness of students.” Overuse of antibiotics — both in human medicine and in meat and poultry production — contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Mark Izeman, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which helped the Alliance develop the antibiotic-free standard, said that the change “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.”