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Not all fast food is equally harmful: top 8 fast food chains that use the highest quality meat

On days when you're short on time or just craving a burger in all its greasy beauty, let's face it, nothing beats the convenience of a fast food chain. There are fast food chains that select the highest quality meat for their dishes. Eat This.

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The good news is that fast food chains can be included in the healthy food mix, especially if you know brands that go out of their way to source beef for their burgers.

“When fast food is the only option, some options are better than others when it comes to choosing quality meat,” says nutritionist and nutrition coach Jenny Dor.

The biggest problem when it comes to instant beef is the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, which can lead to antibiotic resistance. This, in turn, causes many health problems in the population. In fact, the WHO lists antibiotic resistance as one of the "biggest threats to global health, food security and development today," according to their website.

Dor says chains that take the extra step, are regularly reviewed, and are careful about supplements will be happy to showcase this on their website and in their marketing.

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We can also rely on the annual Chain Reaction Scorecard from the US Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), which examines fast food chains' antibiotic use policies and assigns each one a letter grade from A to F.

“Company valuation is critical to show consumers which networks are doing the right thing so they can support them and which are not,” says Matthew Wellington, director of public health campaigns at US PIRG and the US PIRG Education Fund.

The 2021 scorecard showed that fast food companies need to push their beef suppliers to stop antibiotic overuse, he said.

"If more companies say they won't accept beef raised with constant use of antibiotics, it will help distract the industry from this dangerous practice," he said.

The PIRG report also cites several small regional networks with commendable antibiotic policies. Wellington says they didn't categorize these networks, but they did include a short section highlighting their progress to show that it's possible to get beef raised without overuse of antibiotics.

Here are fast food chains that pride themselves on using antibiotic-free beef.


With a single "A" on the scorecard, Chipotle tops the list. It was the only company surveyed by PIRG that requires suppliers to track antibiotic use and communicates this information to their customers. "Chipotle prohibits suppliers from using antibiotics in beef purchased by the restaurant, so the chain's reports of antibiotic use in beef are zero," the report says.


Not surprisingly, Panera is not far from the best rating. Back in 2004, the chain already debuted antibiotic-free chicken. According to the PIRG report, Panera's suppliers are now also tracking the use of antibiotics in beef. However, it also shows that they are not giving details to Panera.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack scored an A in PIRG's 2018 report, while the current report boasts that the chain continues to be a leader in the antibiotic-free beef movement among national burger chains. Shake Shack proudly declares its U.S. Animal Welfare Policy on its website and uses only antibiotic-free beef for its burgers.


BurgerFi has received top marks for its antibiotic-free beef policy for several years in a row.
“At BurgerFi, we are deeply committed to providing our guests with the best restaurant experience using the highest quality ingredients,” the chain said in a statement. “We use 100% American Beef No steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals or additives for all of our burgers.”

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The PIRG Chain Reaction scorecard also pays homage to B.Good, a Boston-based chain with dozens of offices in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Texas. The chain's website says the company maintains an extensive list of ingredients banned from use in their food products, including antibiotics, growth hormones, and artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.


Burgerville, a restaurant chain in Oregon and southwest Washington, says its antibiotic-free beef comes from cattle raised in the Pacific Northwest. Pork, turkey and chicken are also free of antibiotics.

Burger Lounge

Californians can find high-quality beef at all Burger Lounge restaurants that source their antibiotic- and hormone-free beef from Grass Run Farms.

Elevation Burger

Virginia-based Elevation Burger also scored high on the Chain Reaction scorecard. Over 40 national and international restaurants serve organic grass-fed beef and free-range chicken without antibiotics.

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