US chicken firm attacks “misleading” use of antibiotics labelling

Major US chicken producer, Sanderson Farms, has attacked the use of marketing gimmicks in relation to the use of antibiotics in poultry production which it says are be “designed to mislead consumers” in order to sell products at a higher price than would otherwise be possible.

The company, which ranks as the third largest poultry producer in the US, has geared its latest retail advertising campaign to exposing the marketing gimmicks currently being used by “some in the industry”, while also explaining to consumers what actually happens on farms.

“We have a responsibility to empower consumers to make informed decisions by debunking the myths perpetuated through the media and the unfortunate use of misleading labels,” said Sanderson Farms’ CEO, Joe F. Sanderson, Jr.

“Some in the industry, by way of their labels and advertising efforts, have misled consumers to believe that only their chicken is raised cage free and is free of antibiotics and added hormones. The fact is that FDA regulations require all chicken made available for purchase be free of antibiotic residues and the use of added hormones has been illegal since the 1950’s.”

The company also said that so long as scientific research indicates that antibiotics are safe and healthy, it will continue to make the “right decision” when it comes to how it raises chickens.

“We have not seen any credible scientific research to support the idea that the judicious use of antibiotics in chicken contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance in humans,” said the company’s corporate veterinarian, Dr Phil Stayer. “At Sanderson Farms, we believe we have a moral responsibility to protect the welfare of our animals and, as veterinarians, we have taken an oath to relieve the suffering of animals, particularly those under our supervision. It’s simply the humane thing to do.”

While adding that it recognises that antibiotic resistance is an issue that must be taken seriously, the company said that “many industry experts agree the issue is related to the overuse and over-prescription of antibiotics in humans, and more closely linked to medical institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes, rather than agricultural processes that have been in place for decades”.

It also said that the judicious use of antibiotics is considered an acceptable form of treatment or prevention of disease in food-producing animals by many industry organisations, including the National Chicken Council, American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Meat Institute, the American Association of Avian Pathologists and the Federation of Animal Science Societies.

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