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US meat giant promises end to antibiotics in chicken

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The giant meat producer said the company aimed to entirely eradicate the use of human antibiotics in chicken production by September 2017.

The news comes after a number of Tyson Foods’ competitors, including Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms and Cargill, announced similar moves to end antibiotic usage in the face of growing global pressure.

To meet its ambitious goal in only five months’ time, Tyson Foods is looking to use alternative medicines, such as probiotics, to keep its chickens healthy. Selective breeding techniques and improvements to chicken housing conditions are some of the other ideas in use.

Antibiotic alternative hunt

Tyson produces an average of 35m head of chicken per week, according to 2016 data, and it has a responsibility to treat sick animals.

The business said it was working with other food industry players, government, veterinary, public health and academic stakeholders to “accelerate research into disease prevention and antibiotic alternatives”.

Human antibiotics have not been used in 35 of Tyson Foods’ chicken hatcheries, and usage in broiler chickens has dropped by 80% since 2011. Human antibiotics are only ever given to chickens when a veterinarian prescribes them.

Working groups with independent farmers, who supply cows, pigs and turkeys to Tyson Foods, have also been established to look at ways to reduce antibiotics.

The move to end antibiotics in chickens applies only to Tyson Foods’ US operations. The business said its international businesses were “committed” to taking similar measures, but a timeframe had not been set.

In recent times, the meat industry has come under intense pressure from the campaign groups, government and global investors to tackle routine overuse of antibiotics. Many have claimed the massive abuse of antibiotics could lead top bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, leading to a public health crisis, as drugs used to treat common infectious diseases no longer work.

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