Unless you are a vegan or vegetarian (in which case we honor you), you’ve probably been thinking about your next trip to your favorite burger joint (hello, JG Melon 10021.) But burger lovers beware because a group of national health and wellness organizations released a new report rating the quality of meat at America’s biggest burger chains, and the results are about as scary as it gets this Halloween season.
Of the 25 burger chains surveyed, a whopping 22 received an “F”, citing their practices and policies on antibiotics in their beef products. Here’s a partial list of offenders.
- Burger King
- Jack in the Box
- White Castle
- Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
- Five Guys
- In-N-Out Burger
- Steak ‘N’ Shake
- Checkers and Rally’s
- Freddy’s Steakburgers
- The Habit
- Farmer Boys
Meat-lovers, despair not: the run-away winners were Shake Shack and BurgerFi . Both of whom scored an “A.”
According to Jeffrey Amoscato, a Vice President at Shake Shack, “Since the beginning, it has always been Shake Shack’s mission to Stand for Something Good, which means premium ingredients that are thoughtfully sourced from like-minded purveyors. It’s part of our DNA. Our beef, chicken, and pork are all 100% all-natural – no added hormones or antibiotics ever, vegetarian fed, humanely raised and source-verified. It’s something that’s very important to us so we’re thrilled to be recognized for our efforts.”
Below our fearless team of burger lovers look at the science behind the burger break down and show us why Danny Meyer (Shake Shack) and the folks at BurgerFi are not just “fast casual” geniuses, they’re changing the way Americans eat our best-loved meal.
The best burger chains in the U.S.
“Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition” was released on Wednesday, 10/17. It was compiled by the Center for Food Safety, Consumer Reports, Food Animal Concerns Trust, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Friends of the Earth, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The report hinges on the fact that heavy-handed use of antibiotics in our food sources can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance in our bodies.“The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider antibiotic-resistant bacteria among the top threats to global public health,” according to the report. “The CDC estimates that each year, at least 23,000 Americans die from resistant infections.”
The report unveils three key findings:
- BurgerFi and Shake Shack lead the list. The report notes that only these two chains serve beef without antibiotics. Yes, it costs a few dollars more to buy a burger at BugerFi and Shake Shack than does elsewhere. But it has been good for business. Both chains are quickly growing their businesses. The report suggested that their responsible sourcing practices, specifically serving beef raised without antibiotics, resonates with customers and keeps them coming back.
- Policy: “The vast majority” of top burger chains operate without publicly available government oversight into antibiotic-use in their beef supply chains. (Talk about wild west of the food biz.) McDonald’s has not committed to rolling out a meat supply chain that relies on limited or antibiotic-free meats, despite being the #1 purchaser of beef in the United States. Without a policy, this issue out of reach for government intervention.
- Transparency and Auditing: “Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition” strongly recommends that their F-rated establishments should audit their suppliers regularly, ideally with third-party inspectors. “Wendy’s and Shake Shack (for a portion of its supply) make auditing standards available to the public,” the report gleamed. The other restaurants are “leaving their customers in the dark regarding antibiotic use practices.”
Cristina Gallotto is a masters candidate at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Previously, she was an Associate Producer with CBS News' award-winning news show, “60 Minutes” and a writer for WCVB-TV in Boston.