Sanderson Farms to stop antibiotic use by March 2019
By March next year, Sanderson Farms Inc will no longer rely on antibiotics, that have critical applications in human health, to combat diseases in chickens, the company announced recently.
According to a December 1 Reuters report, Sanderson is the last major chicken producer to reject antibiotic use. The move marked a u-turn for the company which previously defended the practice in commercials and even resisted shareholders' desire to control use.
Matt Wellington, director of the antibiotics programme for US PIRG, a public interest group, welcomed the development, describing Sanderson's action as "better late than never."
The company's decision came following the commissioning of an independent study of its production practices. The study stated that stopping antibiotic use "could represent a responsible compromise to better preserve efficacy of antibiotics important for human health," a company statement said.
Gentamicin and virginiamycin - two antibiotics employed by Sanderson in keeping chicks healthy and in feed, respectively - will not be used by the company by next year.
The removal of gentamicin could raise the probability of more chicks' death in the their first week of life, Sanderson's chief financial officer, Mike Cockrell, claimed. In light of potential losses, the company will work to mitigate the problem.
Even then, Cockrell expressed Sanderson's skepticism over the scientific connection between antibiotic use in livestock and antibiotic resistance in humans. The company only decided to stop antibiotic use due to concerns over such a link.