Responsibly-Produced Meat & Poultry

Although we encourage all school districts to incorporate Plant Forward meals into their menus, meat use is sometimes unavoidable. If you must incorporate meat, ensure that your meat products are sustainably and responsibly sourced.

The Agricultural Marketing Service purchased more than 254 million pounds of chicken for the USDA Foods program in 2014. Beef purchases amounted to less than half that at 113 million pounds. With so much meat served in schools, it has become increasingly important for schools to be aware of the impact of non-medical use antibiotics in the meat industry. The widespread use of antibiotics in animal agriculture in the United States seriously compromises their efficacy in treating human infections caused by drug resistant bacteria as noted by the CDC in its 2013 report, "Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States." 

The Pew Charitable Trusts and School Food FOCUS (now part of FoodCorps) developed the "Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use Standard for Poultry (CRAU)," which provides the first standard, third-party certification verified by the USDA. It is now managed by the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center (ARAC) at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. The CRAU standard is for the rare use of medically important antibiotics in poultry production if prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. This standard was also referenced as an alternative approach in the Urban School Food Alliance’s 2014 announcement that it is adopting a “No Antibiotics Ever” specification for its poultry procurement, which includes:

With large corporate attitudes shifting—such as McDonalds’s work to reduce the overall use of antibiotics important to human health as well its adoption of the “McDonald’s Global Vision for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Food Animals”—we can anticipate that the major producers will increase the availability and reduce the cost of poultry that meets these standards. 

We hope that public demand to limit the use of pharmaceuticals in livestock management will ultimately result in broad adoption of better practices, and that USDA foods will eventually include specifications for hormones and antibiotic use in meats and poultry in their procurement for meal programs.

To stay informed on the progress of these issues, The Environmental Working Group regularly tracks the health and environmental impact of the meat industry via their Meat-Eaters Guide. The Pew Charitable Trusts' Antibiotic Resistance Project provides ongoing research and analysis as well.

If and when your district makes changes to this area of your procurement, remember that it’s important to market your work to your community. Many people will support your efforts as well as your broader food program when they understand the impact of your commitment to fresh, safe food.


Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use

Chef Ann Cooper discusses the overuse of antibiotics in animal husbandry


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