- Tyson Foods announced that it will discontinue the use of medically important antibiotics in its chicken by September 2017.
- The company has already reduced its use of medically important antibiotics in broiler chickens by more than 80% since 2011.
- Tyson will also work to reduce antibiotics use for its pork, beef, and turkey products, but the company has not yet set a timeline for that effort.
Tyson follows Pilgrim's Pride and Perdue Farms, who have also vowed to reduce their use of antibiotics, but because Tyson is the country's leading poultry producer, its announcement is the biggest seen yet by the poultry industry. Medically important antibiotics, which Tyson is discontinuing for its chickens, are antibiotics taken by people. Use of medically important antibiotics for farm animals, which are used to treat and prevent diseases as well as promote growth in the animals, has caused concerns as more people are developing antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Some believe this could be due to the antibiotics present in the food supply.
Bloomberg reported, "Tyson will continue to use ionophores, a class of antibiotics that aren't medically important for humans, to treat intestinal disease in chickens."
According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, antibiotic-free chicken saw a 25% increase in sales in the year ending Jan. 25, which makes up about 11% of overall chicken sales. However, despite increased sales and company announcements, the FDA recently reported that sales of antibiotics for farm animals are on the rise, having increased by 20% between 2009 and 2013, 60% of which were for medically important reasons.
In Oregon, legislators are currently debating a bill that, if passed, would make Oregon the first state in the U.S. to impose more stringent rules on antibiotics used for farm animals. Some of the state's farmers have expressed concerns that without the antibiotics, disease outbreaks could be more frequent in their larger groups of animals.
The White House has also released a five-year plan to address antibiotics use and superbugs.