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US producer calls antibiotic-free chicken a ‘gimmick’

US poultry integrator Sanderson Farms has said it will not phase out antibiotics from its farms, taking a position that runs contrary to many other similar companies in the USA.

The company has embarked on a charm offensive aimed at dispelling what it calls “marketing myths” that it says other businesses propagate, with a series of short videos explaining its position.

US producer calls antibiotic-free chicken a ‘gimmick’
Photo: Sanderson Farms

Opposing stance on antibiotic use

The campaign centres on the responsible use of antibiotics in farming, but a website also covers cages, hormones and steroid use. Sanderson Farms said that after “deliberate and careful consideration” it would not withdraw antibiotics from its production.

There were 3 primary reasons, according to the company.

Meeting obligations

A statement said: “All 3 of these obligations can be better met through the responsible use of FDA-approved antibiotics when recommended by our veterinarians. We are committed to using antibiotics responsibly, and only when necessary. We are also committed to finding and using alternatives when they become available.”

“In addition, should credible, scientific data become available that supports the notion that antibiotic use in farm animals contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, we will most certainly re-evaluate our position.”

Welfare pressure

US poultry farmers have been placed under immense pressure from lobby groups and consumers over intensive farming methods. As a result, most food businesses have pledged to phase out keeping hens in cages, while similar commitments have been made over ending the use of antibiotics.

Hundreds of companies now specify “antibiotic-free” chicken for their supply chains. Restaurant chain Wendy’s was the latest, suggesting all “critically important” drugs would be withdrawn from production animals by 2017.

By: Jake Davies

10 comments

  • DM Pendragon

    Big Congratulations to Sanderson Farm. They have taken the right course. Consumers have been sold a bill of goods by orgs such as HSUS (H$U$) which is a vegan org. Their intent is to destroy animal husbandry by lobbying for regulations which make farming prohibitively expensive. Their lobbying for legislation has absolutely nothing to do with animal welfare or the science of animal husbandry. Again Congratulations to Sanderson for putting animal wellbeing first by using antibiotics judiciously to prevent illness in their flocks.

  • Lowell Penner

    I agree. This is about time. Like you say it's all about the vegans warped sense of responsibility and their agenda.
    They never stop to think how many bugs and worms get killed eating grains and vegetables when they are harvested. When I combine my bin is full of maimed bugs. Are they worth less than a hog or cow or chicken?

  • DMB Buessing

    They're standing up to the consumer. I don't see this as a wise move for Sanderson. Probably time to short the stock and go long Purdue. I also think the position is missing the point entirely. The problem is not the residues is that the drugs no longer work in many cases. I've seen a huge amount of resistance in the Asian markets that is nothing more than 100% resistance to everything producers can throw at the animals - from A to Z. The US is a much better managed market than the developing world markets by a large margin but the threat is real. I fall a long way from being a vegan, have been in this business for 23 years and certainly would not be categorized as a bleeding heart but what I've seen in Asia in particular is, to say the least, damned scary.

  • GD Diaz

    What an idiotic statement:
    “In addition, should credible, scientific data become available that supports the notion that antibiotic use in farm animals contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, we will most certainly re-evaluate our position.”
    Evidently they haven't read scientific literature.

  • Reid Phifer

    Kudos to Sanderson, their business will continue to thrive for the fact; there are many more people in this world that need chicken provided at an affordable price, than the select number able to pay higher prices generated by a niche market.

  • Tawfiq Ghunaim

    I agree with responsible use . It is not an easy commitment towards the consumer.
    Antibiotics / anti-infective agents are essential in poultry production , alternatives are not ready for immediate replacement , responsible use ; means considering the proper diagnosis ,necessity , the least cross resistance forming products , dosage and the withdrawal time for each product in order not have residuals of the antibiotics / ant-infective agents in poultry products.

  • James Watts

    Perdue is a private company...good luck...it never was antibiotics so to speak..it was the irresponsible use of antibiotics..which the industry called "judicious"...which meant every bite of food but a few..if there was no resistance then there would be no need to change drugs in the feed and they do quite often..

    That being said I think ionophores used judiciously certainly can be done....the environment these birds are raised in requires something to give their immune system a chance to develop without being challenged...until you revamp the system drugs will be administered...even squeaky clean Perdue uses antimicrobials in their feed..which mimic 100% what antibiotics do..so they didn't make the leap they project in the commercials..

    After 23 years of raising birds on contract..the stuff I have seen and heard..I tip my hat to Sanderson for at least being honest..real rare in this industry.

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