Tyson Bows to Public Pressure and Goes Antibiotic-Free – a Little Bit

80% of All Antibiotics in US Consumed by Animals First, THEN by YOU
80% of All Antibiotics in US Consumed by Animals First, THEN by YOU


In what could be the beginning of a trend toward healthier factory farming practices, meat-producing giant Tyson has pledged to begin sourcing its pork from farmers that don’t use antibiotics.

The move comes on the heels of several major moves toward healthier poultry that were pledged by big players in the industry:

  • Fast-food behemoth McDonald’s announced that they would move away from chicken raised with antibiotics
  • Five chains, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts received a “passing grade” in terms of sourcing antibiotic-free meat in a survey produced by several consumer groups
  • Numerous retailers are saying they will switch over to cage-free eggs

With an estimated 80 percent of antibiotics consumed in the U.S. by livestock–an estimated 32.6 million pounds of the drugs in 2013 alone– consumers have long been clamoring for healthier, drug-free meat.

The industry has long resisted, even going so far as to state that going antibiotic-free could constitute cruelty to their animals–ironically because the animals could die in the unsanitary, disease-ridden conditions in which they are kept by the self-same meat producers–but as usual, money talks.

According to a survey published by Consumer Reports, 25 percent of Americans have said they are seeking out antibiotic-free meat more often than they did in 2014, a trend that the big meat producers have obviously noticed.

Going beyond even the antibiotics, Tyson recently announced the introduction of their new line of Open Prairie Natural Pork, which source meat from pigs raised without antibiotics, hormones, or the use of gestation crates.

In a February article in the trade publication Meat & Poultry, Ozlem Worpel, a Tyson brand manager, said, “We developed this brand to meet the growing demand for natural pork, while allowing retailers to diversify their product mix and give them a competitive edge.”

While it is certainly not out of line to view the recent moves with a somewhat jaundiced eye–these are huge, multi-billion dollar companies who care about the bottom line to the exclusion of everything else–it is still heartening. For people who care about what they put into their bodies and what they feed their children, this can only be viewed as a positive trend.

But we do have to keep the fight in the foreground. For some perspective, one estimate suggests that Tyson’s recent announcements could mean as many as 1 million antibiotic-free hogs every year which sounds great until you consider that this is a small number out of an estimated 68 million hogs and pigs that are annually produced across the U.S.

The fight may be going in the right direction, but the fight must continue. Refuse to buy mean, chicken and other poultry unless it is raised without antibiotics, drugs and hormones.


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