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University moves toward all antibiotic-free chicken

January 29, 2016

University Dining Services has announced that by June 2016, all chicken served on River Campus and at the Eastman School of Music will be antibiotic free. In working with Aramark and local suppliers, Dining Services has been able make this large-scale pledge without additional costs to students or customers.

Antibiotic-free products are a livestock industry alternative where healthy animals are not given daily antibiotics. The public health concern when animals are raised with antibiotics is that the practice could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria in consumers.

As of this January, all of the dining center and food court salad bars and grill stations on River Campus and at Eastman serve antibiotic-free chicken. Moving forward, the University plans to continue working with its vendors to bring antibiotic-free chicken options to all locations across River Campus with full implementation by June 2016. This initiative would impact over 278 tons of chicken each year. Meliora Catering—part of University Dining Services—has also made the transition to antibiotic-free chicken.

“The humane handling, all vegetarian diet, and absence of antibiotics and byproducts all result in a much cleaner, more natural tasting chicken,” said Antonio Pignagrande, senior executive chef in University Dining Services.

Additionally, the dining services at the Medical Center—Café 601, patient dining, and catering departments—have plans to switch to all antibiotic-free chicken before the end of 2016. The Metro Deli Café, scheduled to open by early March in the Medical Center, will also serve antibiotic-free product.

In October 2014, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s office met with Dining Services representatives to help support the move toward serving antibiotic-free chicken. As a microbiologist, Slaughter has been a champion in leading efforts to curtail the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in human health and food-animal production. She is the sponsor of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would ban nontherapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in food animal production.

“As someone who has led the fight against antibiotic resistance for years, I am happy to see the University of Rochester move forward with their plan to provide antibiotic free chicken. The push to save the medical effectiveness of these lifesaving drugs is receiving global attention as consumers and governments work to end the overuse of antibiotics,” said Slaughter. “Reducing unnecessary antibiotic use in food-producing animals is essential if we are to make any impact on the growing pandemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. That’s why I’m so proud of the University of Rochester’s commitment to begin serving only antibiotic-free chicken.”

The University’s first step in this direction was in July 2015 with the switch to all-natural chicken—product that undergoes minimal processing and does not contain artificial/synthetic colors, flavors, preservatives, or ingredients—in The Commons in Wilson Commons. In September 2015, the University began serving certified antibiotic-free chicken at the Freshens Burrito Bowl Station in The Commons, which was the first campus station to implement the change.

“The move to antibiotic-free chicken complements the University’s dedication to sustainability, as well as to purchasing and operating practices that are ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable,” said Cam Schauf, director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations. “This commitment also includes purchasing over 56 percent of campus food from New York State businesses, farms, and workers.”

The University is also exploring the impact and availability of sustainable (including antibiotic-free) pork and beef.

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