Leading US grocers get a D on supplying and promoting antibiotic-free poultry

Dive Brief:

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council assigned a D grade to Costco (40%), Albertsons/Safeway (39%), Publix (38%), Wal-Mart (38%) and Kroger (33%) for poor promotion of better antibiotic practices and antibiotic-free chicken offerings, according to Organic Authority
  • These five grocers represent more than 50% of the U.S. grocery market. While they have failed to make public commitments to reducing antibiotic use in poultry supply chains, other companies have begun to move forward. Whole Foods is one of several retailers with a store-wide policy concerning antibiotic-free meat. 

  • “The top five grocery store chains in the country feed millions of Americans, so their actions have a big impact on public health — for better or worse,” said Carmen Cordova, staff scientist with the NRDC, told Organic Authority. “Supermarkets can either continue to ignore the spread of drug-resistant infections, or they can answer their customers’ call to be a part of the solution.”

Dive Insight:

The fact that the nation's top retailers all received failing grades for their promotion — or complete lack thereof — of antibiotic-free chicken is bad news for health-conscious consumers. 

Today's average consumer demands natural offerings across all food categories, though meat raised without antibiotics have been of particular interest. Consumers are concerned that when producers use antibiotics in meat that are also used in humans, those antibiotics can become less useful to humans — and help fuel the rise of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."

In the past few years, livestock processors, particularly in the poultry industry, have met significant milestones in reducing antibiotics from their supply chains. But while meat producers have responded quickly to consumer demand, retailers are lagging behind.

Grocers that want to be upfront with their customers can call attention to antibiotic-free chicken offerings through signage, promotion in circulars and on social media sites. It's possible that consumers may stop shopping at these retailers if they knew about their poor antibiotic-free poultry offerings, but it seems unlikely that this would make a significant impact on store sales.

Still, in today's increasingly competitive grocery space, reputation means a lot. Grocers are already racing to reformulate private label products and partner with local farmers in order to establish transparency and score health halos. The issue of antibiotic-free meat may deserve additional focus. 

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Filed Under: Grocery Ingredients Meat / Protein