Great news from Perdue Farms on reducing antibiotics

 Let’s stand up and give a round of applause to Perdue Farms today.  The third largest poultry producer in the U.S. just announced that it is now raising 95% of its birds without antibiotics that are important to human medicine. 

That’s big news in an industry that has too often relied on a steady stream of antibiotics to keep birds growing fast and help them survive crowded, stressful, and unsanitary industrial farm conditions. 

When antibiotics are administered to these chickens day after day, some bacteria become resistant, multiply and spread to our environment and through the food system.  Both human and livestock use of antibiotics are contributing to the rising problem of antibiotic resistance – now among the top five health threats facing the nation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  See our Pharming Chicken report for more about antibiotic use in the chicken industry.

When a major player in the poultry industry announces it’s kicking the antibiotics habit that’s good news.  Highlights from today’s announcement:

  • Today’s press release quotes Jim Perdue saying: “… human-approved antibiotics should not be used to boost production or in place of responsible animal husbandry or hatchery management.”   We agree!
  • Perdue reports that it has eliminated antibiotics use in its hatcheries.  That’s significant because it’s common practice in the industry to inject broiler eggs with gentamicin, an antibiotic important for human medicine.
  • The company claims that it has now eliminated all use of medically important antibiotics on 95% of its birds, with the remaining use limited to treating chickens that are sick.  NRDC and most experts agree that using antibiotics to treat sick birds is an appropriate use of these drugs.

We’d like to hear more about how Perdue is verifying these accomplishments and hope the company will also publish its actual antibiotic use data. 

Meanwhile, still no word from poultry giant Foster Farms—the top chicken producer in the West and the 6th largest chicken company in the U.S.—which has yet to respond to our questions about their own antibiotic use practices.  But Perdue’s announcement today sets a new bar for the industry that will make it harder for other companies to continue business as usual.