Top U.S. poultry companies are ending human antibiotic use in their supply chain by implementing disinfectant wipes, sterilizing fog, and immune-supporting herbs.
Tyson, KFC, and Perdue, among other producers, are shifting their approach to poultry health due to consumer demand for meat raised without human antibiotics and to address the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.
Tyson Foods announced in August 2015 their efforts to end human antibiotic use in their U.S. broiler chickens by September of this year. And they’re on track: in 2016, 90% were raised without antibiotics Tyson told Reuters.
Instead of pharmaceuticals, Tyson asks farmers to wipe down eggs with sanitizing wipes before sending them to a Tyson facility. Once the eggs arrive, peracetic acid fog kills remaining bacteria before the eggs head for incubation. Beyond broiler chickens, the company plans to eliminate antibiotics from its retail line.
Just last month, KFC joined McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A in its pledge to move away from antibiotic use. They were late to shift away from human antibiotics because “we had to convince our suppliers to go for the change,” says Vijay Sukumar, chief food innovation officer for KFC’s U.S. operation.
Perdue Farms began their journey to “No Antibiotics Ever” in 2002. Today, they add oregano and thyme to food and water to keep their chickens healthy.
Despite growing consumer demand for antibiotic-free meat, not all companies are jumping on board. For example, on the recommendation of the company’s board, Sanderson Farms shareholders recently voted against a proposal to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics. “Our judicious use of these drugs in a responsible manner is consistent with our moral obligation to provide safe food products, treat animals humanely, and conserve natural resources,” the company said.
The shift to antibiotic-free poultry is gaining speed because consumers want healthy food options from companies they trust. These changes show that many top producers and suppliers are responsive to what consumers want. Hopefully others will follow suit.