- Last week, Perdue announced at the Annual Meat Conference in Nashville that it will expand its No Antibiotics Ever protein product into mainstream retail with all of its fresh, refrigerated and frozen value-added chicken products, and all of its foodservice turkey items, moving beyond select fresh items and niche brands. The conversion will continue through May.
- In a statement, Perdue's officials stressed their continued leadership in minimizing the use of antibiotics in poultry; two-thirds of the company's chickens are now raised without antibiotics, up from 50% six months ago. In 2014, Perdue eliminated the use of all human antibiotics from every product, becoming the first major chicken company to take this step.
- "Other large companies may have taken antibiotics out of a small segment of their total production, but we're changing our production practices across the company," said Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, Perdue's senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production, in a statement. Perdue is raising its No Antibiotics Ever chicken at nine of its plants.
Other major protein producers have announced intentions to cut back on the use of antibiotics.
Last year, Pilgrim's Pride announced it will stop using antibiotics in about 25% of its chicken production by 2019, five times as much chicken as is currently antibiotic free. Also last year, Tyson Foods announced it will discontinue the use of medically important antibiotics in its chicken by September 2017; it has already reduced its use of medically important antibiotics in broiler chickens by more than 80% since 2011.
Will these companies be able to fulfill their timelines? The goals are attainable, Emily Balsamo, food and nutrition research analyst, Euromonitor International, told Food Dive. "The way I see it, as an analyst, if they are going antibiotic free, the price of chicken will have to rise," she says. "I am not sure American consumers are willing to pay because they are used to super cheap chicken." For example, Pilgrim's Pride's goal is to remove the use of antibiotics in 25% of its chicken, "and I would assume that 25% will be different prices," she says.
The poultry companies are receiving more pressure from the foodservice sector than from consumers to discontinue the use of antibiotics, Balsamo says. For example, Perdue Foodservice offers 10 items that meet the "raised without antibiotic" requirements of the Urban School Food Alliance; the company also supports institutional customers who want to move menu items away from conventional antibiotic use.