This week, Perdue Foods, the country’s third-largest chicken producer with combined meat and grain sales that will surpass $7 billion this year, issued a statement saying that the company will no longer use antibiotics in their hatcheries.
Although the company will continue to use human antibiotics in about 5% of their chickens, it will only be for a few days at a time when prescribed by a veterinarian for a specific problem.
Health Care Without Harm applauds Perdue for this step forward in the movement to protect public health against the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic use in hatcheries has a direct links to antibiotic resistance in the treated birds and in sick humans. According to government estimates, around 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold for use in industrial animal agriculture – four times the amount used by the health care sector. Around 70% of these include antibiotics that are also used to treat human infections, such as penicillins, macrolides, sulfas, and tetracyclines.
Jim Perdue was quoted as saying that this move by their company was prompted by consumer demand. There is growing concern about antibiotic resistance and consumers are speaking up and taking action. Hospitals across the country are demanding increased availability to more sustainably produced meat products from their suppliers, as are other institutional buyers like schools and universities. The market is beginning to shift support towards more sustainable methods of food production that will not require the routine use of antibiotics. After all, antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture is an outcome of a production system that is inherently unhealthy. If we support healthier food production systems, the need for routine use antibiotics will decrease.
Health Care Without Harm encourages other food companies and food animal producers to follow Perdue’s lead and end their routine use of antibiotics, a practice that is contributing to the increasing public health crisis of antibiotic resistance. We also encourage consumers to keep up the good work of demanding healthier food from a healthier food system. They are listening.