Crying Fowl: Major Grocers Stumble in Promoting Antibiotic Stewardship in Retail Chicken

Across the country, scientists, physicians, and public health advocates have been sounding the alarm over rising rates of antibiotic resistance, one of the major public health crises of our time. Prominent health organizations agree that overuse of antibiotics in poultry and livestock production, in addition to human medicine, is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance. Grocery retailers are the middlemen who bring meat products to consumers. Their product selections grant consumer access to meats raised without routine antibiotic use. Retailers can either spur improved antibiotic stewardship by producers or reward continued routine use. 

We evaluated the five largest grocery retailers in North America on their oferings of chicken brands from producers with responsible antibiotic practices and their public commitments around antibiotic use. We also examined their signage and informational materials directing consumers’ attention to chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics, as well as the extent to which suppliers’ claims regarding antibiotic use were verified by an independent third party. Overall, unfortunately, we found that all five retailers have failed to provide leadership in promoting responsible antibiotic practices in their supply chains.