Perdue Farms eliminates routine use of antibiotics

11-10-2016 | | |
Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Perdue Farms, the number 1 producer of fresh chicken in the US, has completed the final step away from the routine use of any antibiotics in its chicken production by eliminating all use of animal-only antibiotics.

This comes 2 years after Perdue became the first major poultry company to stop routinely giving its chickens antibiotics also used in human medicine, the company said in a statement.

No Antibiotics Ever campaign

“Stopping the routine use of human antibiotics was a big step, and addresses pressing concerns in the medical community,” said Chairman Jim Perdue. “But it didn’t answer the basic consumer question: was this chicken raised with antibiotics? ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ is the only claim we promote to consumers, because it answers all their questions with clarity and transparency. Some of our competitors are promising to reduce antibiotics, and others are trying to tell consumers it doesn’t matter, but our consumers have already told us they want chicken raised without any antibiotics.”

With this latest milestone, Perdue will continue to increase the availability of its no-antibiotics-ever products. “Consumers are asking for changes in the way their food is raised, and it takes commitment and scale of a company our size to give consumers real choice in the marketplace,” said Perdue.

Improved animal husbandry

The improvements in animal husbandry that support no antibiotics production are also part of Perdue’s Commitments to Animal Care, which goes well beyond accepted industry welfare guidelines. Perdue’s programme is based on the 5 Freedoms, a globally recognised standard for welfare, and includes significant changes to encourage natural behaviour, further reduce stress and avoiding suffering.

The animal-only antibiotics (also called ionophores), which Perdue has now stopped using, are typically mixed into feed to prevent a common intestinal illness in chicken. “Through our experience raising no-antibiotics-ever chickens for almost a decade and exposure to organic production, we’ve learned to prevent diseases without antibiotics,” said Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production.

Percentage of treated chickens

This increases the percentage of chickens Perdue raises with no antibiotics ever to 95% from the 67% reported earlier this year. “Consumers want us to raise chickens in a way that doesn’t use antibiotics except if the chickens are sick and need veterinary care,” said Stewart-Brown. “We will never withhold an appropriate treatment.”

Perdue veterinarians prescribe an antibiotic treatment for about 5% of the company’s flocks on average, and the treatment is limited to only what is appropriate to the condition affecting a flock. Those chickens are removed from the no-antibiotics-ever program and sold through other channels.

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Rosie Burgin Editor Special Projects