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In response to consumer concerns, Perdue Foods said it has removed all antibiotics from its chicken hatcheries following its elimination of antibiotics for growth production since 2007. The only antibiotic Perdue's chickens may receive is an animal-only antibiotic used to control an intestinal parasite or antibiotics prescribed by veterinarians to treat and control other illnesses.
“We listened to our consumers and we are proud to have developed a responsible program that does not risk the medical effectiveness of antibiotics in human health, provides appropriate health care for animals and does not employ growth-promoting drugs,” said Jim Perdue, chairman of the Salisbury, Md.-based company. “While treating illness is a responsible part of animal care, we believe human-approved antibiotics should not be used to boost production or in place of responsible animal husbandry or hatchery management.”
The news was announced on Sept. 3 at a press conference in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, SVP of food safety, quality and live operations for the nation's third-largest poultry producer, explained the antibiotic milestone achievement in greater detail. "By no longer using any antibiotics in our hatcheries or any human antibiotics in feed, we've reached the point where 95 percent of our chickens never receive any human antibiotics, and the remainder receive them only for a few days when prescribed by a veterinarian."
Eliminating antibiotics' use in the hatchery has taken five years to fully implement, said Stewart-Brown, adding that it's the latest stage of a 12-year evolution in the company’s approach to antibiotic use – none of which exceed the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) voluntary guidelines for antibiotic use in food animals, as well as the standards of the USDA Organic certification program.
“This is not something that you simply turn a switch to implement,” noted Stewart-Brown. “Moving away from the conventional use of antibiotics in animal agriculture means more than taking human antibiotics out of your programs. You have to develop programs from breeder operations, through the hatchery and feed mill and onto the farm that are sustainable without that use. It takes a lot more effort with more stringent standards, but we believe this is what consumers expect from Perdue.”
A division of Perdue Farms, Perdue Foods' offerings include USDA Process Verified chicken and turkey; no-antibiotics-ever chicken, turkey and pork; and USDA-certified organic chicken under the Perdue, Harvestland Coleman Natural and Coleman Organic brands.