By next summer, all of the chicken served on Papa John's pizzas and poppers will be raised without antibiotics. The pizza chain's announcement adds them to a growing list of restaurants that are helping to stop the overuse antibiotics on large industrial farms.

As I've said before on this blog, government regulators have been cowed by opposition from large industrial farms and drug companies, neither of which wishes to see strong policies to stop inappropriate uses of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. Only California and a growing number of restaurant chains have pushed back. 

Papa John's announcement matters. The overuse of antibiotics leads to superbugs: bacteria that are resistant to the medicines we rely on to save lives. Already, 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and the numbers are expected to grow worse. When restaurant chains make commitments to serve meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics, it pressures their suppliers to change their ways. The more chains, the more pressure. 

Papa John's is following on the heels of 2015 commitments from Subway, Noodles & Company, and McDonald's. Earlier trendsetters like Chipotle, Panera, and Chick-fil-A, plus other regional chains, continue to demonstrate that meat raised without antibiotics is not only critical for public health, it's smart business. 

Incidentally, Papa John's is based in Louisville. I'm hoping another Louisville chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken, gets the same memo that this is good for public health and popular with consumers.

With four major restaurant chains making announcements on antibiotics, 2015 was a good year. Somewhere down the line, as more farming operations change the way they use antibiotics in order to supply these restaurant chains, the FDA or Congress will adopt an across-the-board policy. After all, it’s more politically palatable to regulate the industry laggards than it is to take on an entire industry.

So to Papa John's, I say this: thank you for joining the list of industry leaders on antibiotics, and know that we hope to see a commitment for other meats in the near future.