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Tyson Foods to end use of antibiotics in poultry by 2017

The Springfield, Arizona-based company has already halted the use of human antibiotics at all 35 of its broiler facilities, requiring a veterinarian’s prescription for the use of any antibiotics on the broiler farms. Since 2011, the use of antibiotics on Tyson’s broiler farms has been reduced 80 percent.

U.S. farmers have relied on antibiotics for years to promote growth, as well as lower the cost of producing meat for our tables. The widespread use of antibiotics for human use on animals turned feedlots into breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria or “Super-bugs.”

According to a story in Digital Journal on April 13, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in their 2013 annual report said that the sale of antibiotics for human use being used on animals had increased three percent in 2013, and 20 percent between 2009 and 2013.

Poultry industry does a complete turnaround
In the last year, Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride have made major changes in the use of antibiotics on their poultry flocks, reducing use significantly. It took Perdue 12 years to get off antibiotics in its 15 hatcheries, but the company says its “hatcheries are working better now, antibiotic-free, than they ever did.”

Pilgrim’s Pride, the nation’s second-largest poultry producer still has a long way to go, and right now, they are saying that 25 percent of their poultry will be off antibiotics by 2019, up from the current 5.0 percent now, according to its chief executive, as reported in the Wall Street Journal April 20.

In a conference call on Tuesday, Donnie Smith, Tyson’s CEO said, “Given the progress we’ve already made reducing antibiotics in our broilers, we believe it’s realistic to shoot for zero by the end of our 2017 fiscal year. But we won’t jeopardize animal well-being just to get there. We’ll use the best available treatments to keep our chickens healthy, under veterinary supervision.”

Many think the move by Tyson is in response to McDonald’s Corporation’s announcement in March that the fast-food giant plans to stop serving chicken raised with antibiotics used in human medicine by 2017. But Smith said the company’s decision was not directly related to McDonald’s announcement, even though they are a major supplier.

The announcement by Tyson was met with enthusiastic approval by consumer organizations and health experts, alike. Dr. Gail Hansen, a veterinarian and senior officer with the Antibiotic Resistance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told Food Safety News, “Everyone in public health and consumer health is pretty excited right now.”

Hansen pointed out that over 9.0 billion chickens are slaughtered in the U.S. each year, and every human and animal that receives an antibiotic becomes a reservoir for the creation and spread of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Now that is something to think about.

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