America’s largest poultry supplier, Tyson Foods, is going antibiotic-free in the next two years. The company announced Tuesday morning it plans to eliminate the use of human antibiotics from its U.S. flocks, the final step in a years long process of reform, by 2017.
McDonald’s may have largely prompted this decision after they announced they were going to stop purchasing chicken raised with antibiotics that are important to human medicine – the fast food giant is one of Tyson’s biggest buyers. But it’s nonetheless a major development in the growing crisis of antibiotics resistance, in which the misuse and overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is understood to play a role, Salon reported.
“Antibiotic resistant infections are a global health concern,” Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, said in a statement. “We’re confident our meat and poultry products are safe, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they’re needed to treat illness.”
The industry has gotten to the point where making the switch is a good business decision, Smith said the announcement isn’t expected to affect the company’s financial performance. Chicken producers have already been experimenting with niche, antibiotic-free lines for quite some time, Sasha Stashwick, a policy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council, told Salon, so it’s also easier to make changes to the system when you’re working with chickens, whose lifespans are much shorter than cows and pigs.
Tyson Foods said it plans to start looking into ways to reduce antibiotic use in their beef, pork, and turkey supply chains soon.
Stashwick said the move by Tyson Foods represents a tipping point for the entire industry. Tyson’s commitment, she writes in a blog post, means that a third of the nation’s poultry producers are now on their way to eliminating the routine use of medically important antibiotics, if they haven’t already.