Bucking industry shift, Sanderson Farms vows to keep using antibiotics
- Sanderson Farms said it is committed to using antibiotics in its poultry products, according to Meat + Poultry. Other poultry processing companies, including Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Butterball, have released products sourced from animals raised without antibiotics or taken “no antibiotics ever” pledges.
- Sanderson Farms conducted studies about antibiotic resistance in humans. Joe F. Sanderson Jr., chairman and CEO, said management went outside the company in search of expertise to help guide the decision-making process and better understand the science of antibiotic resistance.
- "When they (European countries) took antibiotics out of use in their flocks … their birds came to the plant with more Salmonella, more E. coli, more Campylobacter and more Listeria,” Sanderson told Meat + Poultry. “And that's something we've been working to reduce for 25 years. We want less Salmonella.”
Unlike much of its competition, Sanderson Farms has built a reputation as one that uses antibiotics, and is a huge proponent for them. It’s even launched campaigns exploring the misconceptions people have about them. The use of antibiotics for animals comes amid concerns that exposure to antibiotics in food may lead to resistance in humans when the drugs are used, but Sanderson Farms has downplayed this threat.
Veterinarians who work at the company insist they need to protect animals’ health and help the company produce high-quality products. Some consumers do avoid purchasing chicken raised with antibiotics, but thanks to the company’s efforts, others recognize Sanderson Farms’ attempt to be more transparent and informative to clear up consumers' confusion over claims made on product packaging. This could be a deciding factor in why people choose to go with their products.
In 2015, McDonald's it would phaseout buying chicken raised with antibiotics used to treat human infections during the next two years. Giant retailer Costco Wholesale, which sells 80 million rotisserie chickens annually, also announced it is working with suppliers to restrict antibiotics in chicken and meat. Other large businesses have made similar commitments.
Consumer groups and lawmakers have pressured the White House, drug manufacturers and livestock producers to act after bacteria started to become resistant to the antibiotics given to humans. The risk for Sanderson is if consumers are buying less meat raised with antibiotics and multi-national companies are moving toward not selling birds raised with the drugs, the poultry processor may lose out on business to their competitors who have already made the decision regarding the practice. At some point, Sanderson might have no choice but to follow the rest of the flock.
- Meat + Poultry Sanderson Farms doesn't back down on antibiotic stance
Follow Keith Loria on Twitter