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This week, shareholders of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI), owner of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, voted on a proposal introduced by Green Century Capital Management, that would require the company to study the feasibility of phasing the routine use of medically important antibiotics out of its meat supply chain.
Green Century’s proposal received 40.2% of shareholder support, which should signal to Darden’s President and CEO, Gene Lee, that it is time for the company to take the issue of antibiotic overuse in its meat supply chain seriously.
“Several of Darden’s competitors have already gotten the message that consumers are hungry for meat raised without routine antibiotic use. Health professionals are sounding the alarm about overusing life-saving medicines in our food supply. Now the company’s own shareholders are calling for action--that’s hard to ignore,” said Shelby Luce, U.S. PIRG Antibiotics Program Fellow.
Darden can follow the lead of so many other companies by assessing the impact of their sourcing practices on public health. As the largest casual dining operator in the U.S. and Canada, Darden should prohibit the routine use of antibiotics from its entire meat supply, and assessing the feasibility of doing so is an important place to start.
“Darden’s shareholders have spoken loud and clear. Darden needs to catch up with its competitors and get serious about antibiotic misuse in its supply chain,” said Jared Fernandez, shareholder advocate with Green Century Capital Management. “Darden must adopt a responsible antibiotic use policy to keep pace with the rest of the industry and reduce its reputational risk.”
Approximately 70% of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States go to livestock, and meat producers often use the drugs routinely to prevent diseases caused by poor production practices. The World Health Organization released guidelines in 2017 that called for a complete restriction on giving antibiotics to animals that aren’t sick.
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