Perdue, Subway move full steam ahead on antibiotics use commitments

Two pieces of positive antibiotics news hit the presses today companies that NRDC has been keeping a close eye on as they implement stewardship policies.

Six months after its last update, Perdue - the fourth largest chicken producer in the United States - released a statement indicating the continued expansion of its 2014 commitment to end the routine use of medically-important antibiotics in their operations. Perdue leads the chicken industry's welcome conversion toward antibiotics stewardship, and it is heartening to hear their implementation progress is continuing at a fast clip. As of today, Perdue reports that two-thirds of its chicken, and more than half of its turkeys, are raised without antibiotics.

In the restaurant sector, Subway, with more restaurants in the US than any other chain, announced a concrete step toward meeting its pledge to eliminate antibiotic use in their chicken supply chain. The company's original commitment was to serve only chicken raised without antibiotics by the end of 2016 - made following a national campaign by NRDC and our allies. Today's announcement indicates that the company will expand chicken raised without antibiotics on their menus starting March 1.

I am encouraged by these continued signs of progress in the fight to keep antibiotics working.

NRDC and the public would be even more excited about these efforts if they came bundled with third-party verification programs that offer consumers assurance that companies are transparent and open about their stewardship claims. While many of Perdue's products are third party verified, the antibiotics stewardship claims for others are not (as far as we know). Similarly, consumers are asked to take Subway at their word that their new chicken products are indeed produced without routine antibiotics. Third-party verification can also increase confidence that animals raised without antibiotics are living in high welfare conditions that are less crowded, less stressful, and with improved diets.

While all antibiotics overuse - medical and agricultural - contributes to the growing global crisis of drug-resistant infections- the fact remains that 70% of medically-important antibiotics (the ones we also used in human medicine) in the US are sold for use on animals, not people. Antibiotics are often given to animals that are not sick, for growth promotion and disease prevention. As our as our federal policy on antibiotics use in agriculture remains weakened by a significant loophole, leadership in the marketplace continues to be very welcome.