Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Antibiotic-free chickens gaining favour

Pushed by retailers, the United States chicken industry is increasing production of flocks raised without growth-promoting antibiotics.

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is the latest to climb on board. It plans to eliminate all antibiotics from one-quarter of its total chicken production by 2019, up from about five percent now, chief executive officer Bill Lovette said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods have made similar announcements recently, but Pilgrim’s Pride is more ambitious in its goals.

McDonald’s announced in March that it plans to eliminate chicken treated with antibiotics from its supply chain within two years.

Chick-fil-A Inc. has a five-year plan for phasing out chicken treated with antibiotics from its supply chain; Pilgrim’s Pride is one of its suppliers.

Poultry processors also are being pressured by a group of six of the largest U.S. school districts to supply antibiotic-free chicken to the nearly 2.9 million students served in cafeterias each day.

The Urban School Alliance buys $530 million worth of food and supplies each year and are asking processors to outline how soon they can comply with the initiative that was first announced in late 2014.

There has been substantial antibiotic-free chicken production for at least five years in Ontario, led by Fischer Feeds of Listowel. They have a complete protocol for farmers, including vaccinations.