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Papa John's Is Going Antibiotic Free With Its Chicken [Updated]

The pizza chain will make the switch by summer.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Papa John's is the latest major food brand to ditch antibiotics. The Louisville-based chain announced Wednesday it plans to source poultry that is raised without human and animal antibiotics, as well as fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet, by summer 2016. Papa John's serves grilled chicken on pizzas and as a side in the form of "poppers."

"I started this company over 31 years ago on a foundation of quality and a commitment to my customers to deliver on a promise of ‘better ingredients, better pizza,'" founder and CEO John Schnatter said in a prepared statement. "By serving high-quality chicken products without added human or animal antibiotics, we're just taking the next step on our journey to always get ‘better.'"

Serving meats raised on antibiotics has been a hot topic for national food chains lately, and a variety of environmental groups have pressured companies such as McDonald'sSubway, and Kentucky Fried Chicken to do away with the practice. McDonald's announced in March it is doing away with chicken and milk treated with human antibiotics. In October, Subway revealed plans to remove antibiotics from its meat supply. The sandwich giant is looking at a multi-step approach: antibiotic-free chicken and turkey should be served in 2016, and the whole menu will be without antibiotics by 2025.

Papa John's claims to be the first national pizza chain to take such a step. The company says it's already made strides toward this commitment by securing contracts with its suppliers and ensuring that they are on track to complete the process on schedule.

Update: December 17, 11:15 a.m. While Papa John's is moving to antibiotic-free chicken, there's no timeline for sourcing other meats that are raised without antibiotics. However, the company is working on it.

"We are working closely with industry experts to evaluate opportunities to supply [antibiotic-free] product at some point in the future," Sean Muldoon, Papa John's senior vice president, R&D, QA, and supply chain, said in an email to Eater. "There are several factors that impact our ability to convert to [raised-without-antibiotics] pork and beef in the short-term. We are in discussions, but we do not have a clear timeline at this time."