The Weekly Glean: This Column Is Now Antibiotic-Free

Here's a true story: last fall, I had never eaten a Big Mac. A friend of mine decided this was unacceptable for an adult in his late 20s, and demanded I meet him at a nearby McDonald's to try one. It was smaller than I expected, smaller than a Whopper by quite a bit. By the time I'd eaten a third of the burger, I thought I was about to die. An hour or so later, I did unspeakable things in the bathroom of a Brooklyn yuppie ice cream shop while children waited outside to use it. This is all to say I have, at best, a mixed relationship with McDonald's.

This week, McDonald’s announced something big, something a little bit surprising: in a press release, the company stated, “We are committing to use chicken that is not raised with antibiotics important to human medicine.” Low doses of human antibiotics are routinely used as sort of low-grade, inexpensive steroids: they help chickens gain weight quickly, which chicken farmers like because it shortens the time needed for a chicken to reach slaughtering size. But this practice is also associated with antibiotic resistance, in which bacteria that the antibiotics would typically fight mutate and become stronger, which makes those antibiotics not effective.

McDonald’s has made a few surprising steps in the direction of more natural food (which, of course, does not mean “better” or “healthier”). Just a few months ago, the company announced that it would not buy genetically modified potatoes for its famous french fries. Maryn McKenna over at Wired has an in-depth look at the decision and what it means; Caroline Weinberg at Eater dives into the practice of using antibiotics on chicken; and, on Thursday, we found out that KFC has been under pressure to adopt the same no-antibiotic rule as McDonald’s. Who knows, maybe this could end up being the norm, at least for fast food purveyors.

IN THE NEWS

From our partners at
VICE

NPR answers the question we’ve all been wondering: is it safe to eat snow?

Vox does its infographical thing to show which U.S. public schools have the most robust local food programs.

Kevin Bacon is starring in new ads for eggs. We’re pretty sure there’s a joke here but it’s just a hair too subtle for us to really get.

New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani shares his secrets for great shots.

WEIRD WIKIPEDIA

Apparently McDonald’s has released several videogames over the years (?). Here’s a good one: Donald Land, released on the original Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988, is a Mario-type set-up in which you collect hamburgers instead of coins. Also in Japan, Ronald McDonald is known as Donald McDonald, which…is that better? I’m not sure that’s better.

WEEK IN WEATHER

The current absurdly volatile weather systems are going to affect much more than planting date, says AgWeb.

Wunderground is liveblogging Tropical Storm Pam, which the site says “has strengthened into a Category 5 monster storm.” Eeek, monsters!

That warmth you’ve been enjoying this week? Yeah, that’s temporary. Winter isn’t done yet.

That’s it for this week’s Weekly Glean! Hope you enjoyed! 

The Weekly Glean: This Column Is Now Antibiotic-Free