The poultry producers are part of a growing movement.
One of the largest poultry producers in the country, Tyson, will follow in the footsteps of their competitors and eliminate all antibiotics from their entire line of chicken products by the end of 2017. The company first announced that were planning to stop injecting their chickens will antibiotics used by humans in 2015, at which point around 90 percent of their chickens were already antibiotic free. The new pledge applies to all Tyson chicken sold in supermarkets.
Tyson is just one part of growing movement: Perdue Farms stopped using antibiotics on their chicks all the way back in 2014, while Pilgrim’s Pride, the second largest poultry supplier in the country, has committed to becoming antibiotic-free by 2019. Last month, KFC said they also planned to stop using antibiotics in their chickens, citing concerns that the animals can develop bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. McDonald's and Subway have made similar promises.
Antibiotics are used on farms to combat infections that can quickly spread through flocks, which are usually crammed together in dirty cages. Even before so many companies jumped onto the antibiotic bandwagon, you were never consuming any actual antibiotic drugs in your chicken. As the folks at KFC pointed out, the concern is what happens when chickens are regularly dosed with these drugs: They can start to develop so-called superbugs that can’t be killed off with regular medicine. If a chicken has developed one of these powerful strains of bacteria, farmers run the risk of accidentally introducing it into your kitchen via its poultry host. But sometimes animals do get sick—it’s unavoidable—and they need to be treated with antibiotics.
All this means that if farmers, fast food chains, and big corporations are going to stop using antibiotics they need to be much more careful about their chickens are raised, giving them more freedom to roam, and improving the up keep of their cages, lowering their risk of getting sick. Perdue’s vice president of food safety said that their chickens’ living quarters need to be “cleaner, cleaner, cleaner, so you don’t introduce bacteria in the hatchery.”
The move also means that food companies are paying attention to the growing demand for “natural” food. If that means they’re actually making an effort to produce healthy food, maybe that we can even expect fast food to go organic.