The largest chicken processor in the US has announced it will stop using antibiotics on its birds by June 2017.
Tyson Foods made the announcement at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida. It said its decision to end the use of antibiotics would cover all the company’s branded chicken products, along with their already antibiotic free NatureRaised Farms brand.
Tyson Foods spokesman Worth Sparkman told Feed Navigator the No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) branded product initiative would make Tyson Foods the largest producer of chicken ever to do so.
“We’ve been producing ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ chicken since 2013 with the introduction of NatureRaised Farms brand and more recently, with the introduction of the Tyson Naturals products,” he said.
“These products are currently a small percentage of our business, but we expect them to grow.”
Companies have been working on ways to reduce the amount of antibiotics they use on animals raised for human consumption, after leading scientists concluded the practice to promote growth and prevent illness in healthy farm animals had contributed to the emergence of human infections that are no longer treatable with common antibiotics.
According to a 2015 Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, roughly 70% of antibiotics sold in the US are for use on livestock and poultry.
The report found the excessive use of antibiotics on farms contributed to the rapid growth and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which could possibly lead to 10 million people dying globally each year from drug-resistant infections by 2050.
At the same time, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimate currently at least 2m people in the US are infected with drug-resistant bacteria each year and that 23,000 die as a direct result.
In announcing the initiative, newly appointed Tyson Food president Tom Hayes said the move was based on changing consumer preferences.
“Certainly the conscious consumer today is holding us accountable,” he said.
“The purpose of our company is to raise the world’s expectations for how much good food can do, and we’re uniquely positioned to deliver just that.”
Tyson Foods is only the second major US poultry company to go antibiotic free after Perdue Farms, the fourth-largest chicken producer in the US, announced last year it was moving its entire chicken and turkey products to being antibiotic free.
However, not all players in the poultry industry have agreed to make the switch to using fewer antibiotics, with the third largest US poultry producer, Sanderson Farms, rejecting a proposal in February to phase out the use of antibiotics.
Hayes said Tyson would also be deepening its commitment to a more sustainable food system by delivering healthier foods, animals, workplaces and environment.
“For us, sustainability isn’t a single issue; it’s about focusing on multiple dimensions in order to advance as a whole,” he said.
“We will use our reach, capabilities and resources to drive positive change at a scale we believe no other company can match.”
The move comes in the wake of a report earlier this month that Tyson Foods is currently the subject of an investigation into allegations the it colluded with rivals Sanderson Farms and Pilgrim’s Pride to manipulate the price of chicken.
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