Tonawanda News — KENMORE — It’s not instantly obvious in appearance, texture or taste, but there’s something just a little bit different about the chicken breasts being served these days at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.
The hospital recently began using antibiotic-free chicken in both its cafeteria offerings and in meals served to patients, said Dawn Cwierley, hospital public relations manager.
“I believe we’re the only hospital in the area doing it. I’ve only seen this happen on the West Coast,” she said, noting that UCLA hospitals began serving antibiotic-free chicken and beef in April. “It really ties into hospitals’ overall effort to evaluate use of antibiotics: ‘How much are you prescribing?’ ‘Are there other options?’ ”
The move toward antibiotic-free meats is spurred by a growing concern about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, due to overuse of antibiotics both for medical purposes and as a means of growth promotion in animals. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used for the latter reason.
The hospital already offers initiatives such as “Meatless Mondays” and “300-calorie Tuesdays.”
Kathy McAlpine, KMH food services manager, said she was reading material on Meatless Mondays when she encountered the idea of going antibiotic-free with the hospital’s food selections. It’s just one more way to reduce the intake of antibiotics, she said.
“I’m really big into the sustainability and eating local, farm fresh. So this just piqued my interest. ...” she said. “Hospitals are the first places who actually should be using this to make their patients healthier. That’s how it developed. We’re just trying to educate our staff and our patients by doing the right thing.”
While Cwierley said the antibiotic-free chicken doesn’t taste any different to her, McAlpine thinks it does — but in a good way. (”You buy chicken, it tastes like chicken.”) While the chicken does cost a little more, prices in the cafeteria have remained the same, she said. “It’s about 20 cents (more) per portion, so that’s not killing my budget; it’s affordable.”