What do you want for Valentine's Day? Maybe you prefer romantic dinner for two, a simple gift of flower and chocolates, or something totally off the beaten path. This time of year there are countless couples trying to read one another's minds and get the perfect gift, often disregarding their credit card limits to obtain the physical representation of their love.
This Valentine's Day, all I want is a hamburger.
Like many of my fellow millennials, I care about public health. So, let's make that a burger made from meat that is raised without the routine use of antibiotics. Unfortunately for McDonald's, this means that a Big Mac will not be my Valentine's Day fix. Although there is no slogan that plays better in early February than "I'm lovin' it," we millennials are not lovin' it.
According to Salon, if you are between the ages of 19 and 21, you were 12.9 percent less likely to visit a McDonald's monthly in 2014 than you were just three years earlier. Ouch, that falls just above "getting dumped via text on Feb. 13 at 11:59 p.m." on the rejection scale. Chipotle on the other hand? According to a 2013 survey by Buzz Media Group and Global Hue, 46 percent of millennials listed Chipotle as their favorite fast food chain, compared to just 27 percent for McDonalds.
The salient question now is, "why?" For all of the flack that millennials receive, we care about what we eat. As a generation, more and more we want restaurants to talk about their food and where it comes from, and we are tending to patronize the chains that give us what we want. For example, the most shared story on my news feed last week was Chipotle punishing a supplier for violating their agreement around the humane treatment of animals. Need further evidence? The second favorite restaurant in the previously mentioned survey was Panera -- another chain that has a history of telling its customers how their products are sourced.
Both Chipotle and Panera serve meat that is raised without the routine use of antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is on the list of problems that our generation needs to solve if we expect our children to enjoy a similar quality of life. The essence of the story is that antibiotics, the pillar of modern medicine, are becoming less effective due to overuse. According to CDC estimates, antibiotic resistant infections kill 23,000 Americans every year. That's not a projection, that's right now.
It may also shock you to hear that we use 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics on livestock. Yes, we are pouring a miracle of modern medicine into the feed and water of mostly healthy livestock. Antibiotic resistance builds the more that bacteria are exposed to the drugs, and so this overuse rapidly reduces the effectiveness of entire classes of lifesaving antibiotics. The resistant bacteria that develops on these farms doesn't stay there -- it finds its way to the human population through our air, water and food supply. That means it puts us all at risk.
The good news is that the solution is clear: we need to stop giving antibiotics to healthy animals.
Other restaurants, such as Panera, Chipotle, Shake Shack and Chik-fil-A have agreed to make strong commitments to buy meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics. If a company the size of McDonald's makes that same commitment, it could change the paradigm by making meat raised without the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics more affordable and more accessible to everyone.
This Valentine's Day, McDonald's should make a concrete commitment to serve meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics. This commitment would go a long way for public health, and might have millennial's saying "I'm lovin' it" again.