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Subway Plans to Boot Antibiotics From Its Meat Supply

The sandwich chain will introduce antibiotic-free meats next year.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Facing pressure from environmental groups, Subway plans to eliminate antibiotics from its menu. The sandwich giant announced Tuesday it will transition to antibiotic-free meats at all 27,000-plus of its United States locations, beginning early next year.

A spokesperson for the chain tells Eater chicken raised without antibiotics will be available beginning in March, and turkey will be introduced sometime in 2016, "with a completed transition expected within two to three years." Subway hopes to exclusively serve antibiotic-free pork and beef by 2025. Subway says the transition can't be made overnight because of the company's size and scale.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the organizations that had given Subway heat, says the chain "has gone beyond McDonald's commitment earlier this year — putting the company on track to match industry leaders like Chipotle." The NRDC says eliminating antibiotics in livestock that are not sick "will help stop the growth of drug-resistant superbugs." Responding to the announcement, Lena Brook, food policy advocate for the organization, took a victory lap and praised the chain.

"This is a victory for public health — and sandwich lovers everywhere"

"This is a victory for public health — and sandwich lovers everywhere," Brook said in a prepared statement. "This commitment from the world's largest fast food chain is a giant step forward in the ongoing effort to get meat raised with routine antibiotics off more plates and menus. Subway should be commended for answering its customers' calls. This is a strong plan that will help the company live up to the healthy image it has long-cultivated."

Earlier this year, McDonald's announced it would stop selling chicken treated with antibiotics in all of its 14,000 U.S. locations. Chipotle was one of two national chains, along with Panera, to receive an "A" grade from environmental group Friends of the Earth in a recent report that graded the nation's top 25 fast food and fast casual chains on their efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics in their meat supplies.