Perdue Farms announced Oct. 7 that it 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 two years after Perdue became the first major poultry company to stop routinely giving its chickens antibiotics also used in human medicine.
Chairman Jim Perdue said, “Stopping the routine use of human antibiotics was a big step and addresses pressing concerns in the medical community, 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 Farms 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,” Perdue said.
Ionophores, the animal-only antibiotics that Perdue Farms 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 Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production. “If you can raise healthy chickens without routinely using antibiotics, why rely on them?”
The latest announcement increases the percentage of chickens Perdue raises with no antibiotics ever to 95%, up from 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,” Stewart-Brown said. “We will never withhold an appropriate treatment.”
Perdue Farms 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 then removed from the no-antibiotics-ever program and sold through other channels.