Tyson Foods Inc., the largest supplier of poultry in the U.S., has announced it plans to end the use of antibiotics in its core products in an effort to support its brand. The company will no longer treat chickens with antibiotics whose meat is used for its breast, nugget, and wings products under the Tyson label. While more costly to produce, antibiotic-free products sell for 20 percent more than antibiotic-treated chicken, and this move may make Tyson a leader in this category.
Once this move is completed, Tyson will be joining other companies such as McDonald’s and Subway in creating products that should be healthier for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously called for companies to end the use of antibiotics in food for the purposes of animal weight gain, which the agency has deemed to be categorically unhealthy. Removing antibiotics will potentially expose Americans to fewer diseases as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, animals routinely fed antibiotics can develop drug-resistant bacteria strains that can infect humans through consuming contaminated food or through animal waste in the water supply. Such infections are rare but reducing their occurrence could limit treatment-resistant disease exposure.
Since its chickens will be prone to more infections without treatment, Tyson will replace its animals’ antibiotics regimen. It will use probiotics to support its chickens’ immune systems and, should infections occur, treat individual chickens with antibiotics individually. Those chickens will be then marked for use in different brands.
Tyson processes one-fifth of all poultry in the U.S., meaning a substantial portion of chickens will now be raised without antibiotics. This change, although it may increase costs to consumers in the short term, should foster greater health and help limit the spread of drug-resistant diseases.