Perdue Farms says it is the first major chicken co. to do away with routine antibiotic use

Perdue Farms announced that it is done with the final step away from the routine use of any antibiotics in its chicken production by eliminating all use of animal-only antibiotics.

This comes two years after Perdue says it became the first major poultry company to stop routinely giving its chickens antibiotics also used in human medicine.

“Stopping the routine use of human antibiotics was a big step, and addresses pressing concerns in the medical community,” said Chairman Jim Perdue. “But it didn’t answer the basic consumer question: was this chicken raised with antibiotics? ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ is the only claim we promote to consumers, because it answers all their questions with clarity and transparency. Some of our competitors are promising to reduce antibiotics, and others are trying to tell consumers it doesn’t matter, but our consumers have already told us they want chicken raised without any antibiotics.”

Perdue officials say the company will continue to increase the availability of its no-antibiotics-ever products.

“Consumers are asking for changes in the way their food is raised, and it takes commitment and scale of a company our size to give consumers real choice in the marketplace,” said Perdue.

Improvements in animal care are apparently part of changing the way Perdue raises chickens. Perdue’s program is based on the Five Freedoms, a globally recognized standard for welfare, and includes significant changes to encourage natural behavior, further reduce stress and avoiding suffering.  

According to the release from Perdue, the animal-only antibiotics, which Perdue has now stopped using, are typically mixed into feed to prevent a common intestinal illness in chicken.

“Through our experience raising no-antibiotics-ever chickens for almost a decade and exposure to organic production, we’ve learned to prevent diseases without antibiotics,” said Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production. “If you can raise healthy chickens without routinely using antibiotics, why rely on them?”  

“Consumers want us to raise chickens in a way that doesn’t use antibiotics except if the chickens are sick and need veterinary care,” said Stewart-Brown. “We will never withhold an appropriate treatment.”

Perdue veterinarians reportedly prescribe an antibiotic treatment for about 5% of the company’s flocks on average, and the treatment is limited to only what is appropriate to the condition affecting a flock. Officials say those chickens are removed from the no-antibiotics-ever program and sold through other channels.

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