Tyson Foods, the country’s largest poultry producer, has announced it will stop feeding its chickens antibiotics used in human medicine by 2017.
Since 2011, the company has already reduced its antibiotic use in chickens by 80 percent, though will continue using ionophores, a form of antibiotics not used in human medicine.
But, Tyson Foods isn’t promising to never use a human antibiotic: “What we’re saying is, we don’t believe that we’re going to need to. But we’re not going to let chickens suffer,” Donnie Smith, Tyson Foods CEO said to NPR.
If the company does use them, it will let the public know. This is still a big step, considering the industry has long used large amounts of antibiotics to keep animals from getting sick and to fatten them up.
“Tyson is the big chicken producer,” Gail Hansen, of Pew Charitable Trust’s Antibiotic Resistance Project said to NPR. “Lots and lots of folks are saying that they want to go to fewer and fewer antibiotics, and Tyson is saying, ‘We’re with you. We’re going there, too.’ So this is huge.”
This represents another big player in the industry stepping up in an effort to combat antibiotic resistance, which has been found to be caused by the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production. Perdue announced last year it was removing antibiotics from use in its chicken hatcheries. The company said it had reached the point where 95 percent of its chickens never received antibiotics and those that did had them prescribed by a veterinarian.
What’s more, McDonald’s made a similar announcement a few months ago. The fast food giant said it was committed to serving chicken raised without the use of medically important antibiotics, and it will cut antibiotics in chicken from U.S. supply chains within the next two years.
“McDonald’s believes that any animals that become ill deserve appropriate veterinary care and our suppliers will continue to treat poultry with prescribed antibiotics, and then they will no longer be included in our food supply,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain.
The hope is that turkey, poultry, and beef producers will be next up in drastically reducing antibiotic use.
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Image of factory farmed chickens via Shuttershock