Tyson Foods, the largest poultry producer in the United States, has announced its decision to once again (for real, this time...) not to use certain antibiotics in its chicken production, marking a departure from its previous commitment to eliminate antibiotics in some of its products. This move comes eight years after Tyson had pledged to abandon antibiotics and labeled its packaging with a "no antibiotics ever" tag. The decision has raised concerns due to the growing issue of antibiotic resistance.
According to Tyson, the antibiotics it plans to use are not crucial to human health and do not play a significant role in human medicine. The company has stated that approximately half of US poultry farmers utilize antibiotics to maintain the health of their chickens, especially in crowded and unsanitary farming conditions where disease outbreaks can occur.
In a statement, a spokesperson from Tyson Foods emphasized that the company makes decisions based on sound scientific evidence and evolving best practices that benefit their customers, consumers, and the well-being of the animals under their care.
To address consumer concerns, Tyson-branded chicken will feature a new label indicating "no antibiotics important to human medicine" by the end of 2023. This label aligns with recognized standards established by the USDA and the World Health Organization (WHO), allowing for the use of antibiotics that are not vital in treating human diseases.
Tyson's decision to reintroduce some antibiotics contrasts with its previous stance in 2015 when the company expressed concerns about the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in humans and committed to reducing human antibiotic consumption by eliminating antibiotics from the production of wings, breasts, and nuggets. The current shift in approach is aimed at maintaining the health and well-being of both humans and animals.
Tyson's move follows similar reductions in antibiotic use by its competitors, such as Pilgrim's Pride, which still utilizes some antibiotics, and Perdue, which remains committed to antibiotic-free production.
The issue of antibiotic use in animal agriculture has drawn attention globally due to the adverse health consequences resulting from the development of resistant organisms. The WHO has warned about the potential risks and highlighted the connection between drugs used in animal production and those used in human medicine. In 2007, the organization developed risk assessments to prevent the use of important antibiotics for humans in animal production, emphasizing the need to prioritize human health over animal health.
Do we trust them this time?