Tyson Foods Inc, the nation’s largest poultry producer, says it’s going to stop giving its chickens human-use antibiotics.
Tyson has set a September 2017 deadline for pulling the antibiotics, making it “one of the most aggressive timetables yet set by an American poultry company,” reports Reuters.
The move comes in part due to Tyson’s relationship with McDonald’s Corp, the nation’s leading fast-food chain, which also announced plans to stop selling chicken products that contain antibiotics. In recent years, there has been growing consumer concern over the use of antibiotics in livestock feed and the connection to antibiotic resistant “superbugs,” which pose serious human health issues.
“Tyson controls its chicken supply chain from beginning to end, from owning the birds to supplying the medicated feed to the contract farmers that raise the broilers for them,” Reuters explains, and Tyson says the move away from antibiotics will not impact prices. Tyson’s main rival, Perdue, says it also does not use human-use antibiotics on 95 percent of its chickens, and approximately half of its flocks receive no antibiotics of any kind.
Tyson also announced that it’s looking into ways to reduce antibiotic and other livestock drugs in its pork and beef operations. A company spokesperson told Reuters the company did not know how many antibiotics are being used on its other livestock farms because they are not managed by Tyson directly. "We don't know because we don't own those animals," the representative said.
To achieve its goal, Tyson will be working with groups of farmers, suppliers, veterinarians and industry experts to develop methods for treating animals without antibiotics, particularly those also used on humans.
When human-use antibiotics are used in the food supply, it makes treating infections with those antibiotics more difficult. The World Health Organization has said that the "post-antibiotic era" is imminent unless we can protect these vital medicines.
In factory farm settings, antibiotics are given to animals to treat and prevent illnesses, but they’re also used to enhance growth. Animals fed antibiotics tend to reach market weight much faster, making a quicker profit for producers.
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