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Great news from Perdue Farms on reducing antibiotics

Jonathan Kaplan

Posted September 3, 2014 in Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably

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 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. 

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Comments

Not MeSep 6 2014 10:03 AM

"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"

a little inflammatory. There are poultry diseases which were eradicated through the use of a small amount of antibiotic use on hatching eggs. (Fabricant/Levine) I'll bet that most farms are much cleaner and the animals more healthy and fewer antibiotics used than you think.

Jonathan KaplanSep 8 2014 04:11 PM

Hi Not Me-
Thanks for your comment. You make a point about being inflammatory here but advocates like me are frustrated that so little has changed over many decades while the scientific evidence has piled up showing that we must reduce our use of these drugs. Because FDA doesn't require antibiotic use reporting, we're all in the dark about who is doing a good job and who isn't. Perdue's announcement is unequivocally good news and shows that the industry can lead us to better solutions. Id love to be convinced that the poultry industry has already met the standard that Perdue describes.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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