Tyson's balancing act with antibiotics

by Joel Crews
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Donnie Smith, president and CEO, Tyson Foods
Tyson's Donnie Smith details the company's plan to eliminate use of antibiotics medically important to humans.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods says the April 28 announcement of its plans to eliminate the use of human antibiotics from its broiler chickens by 2017, has nothing to do with similar initiatives announced by its customers or its competitors and everything to do with addressing a global concern without compromising animal well-being.

During a conference call with the media, Smith spent almost as much time discussing what the program is not as he did detailing what the intentions and goals are. The announcement was not made to gain any marketing or competitive advantage, according to Smith and it does not imply that animals in need will not be treated with antibiotics when necessary.

As for the September 2017 deadline Smith acknowledged last month’s announcement by McDonald’s Corp. to eliminate antibiotics from its supply chain within two years, but dismissed the notion that Tyson’s similarly timed goal was to appease the fast-food giant. Earlier this month, Pilgrim's Pride Corp., a unit of JBS SA, announced plans to eliminate antibiotics from 25 percent of its poultry production by the end of 2018.

“This is not a marketing campaign,” said Smith, adding: “We’re not doing this as a labeling approach.”
“We think it is the right thing to do and it’s the most responsible way to balance this global health concern about antibiotic resistance with animal well-being,” he said.

Tyson said in its press release issued earlier in the day that the announcement is part of an initiative that builds on a 2011 campaign that eliminated the use of antibiotics in the company’s 35 hatcheries.

Progress related to the most recent program will become a part of Tyson’s Annual Sustainability Reports, beginning in 2015, although the parameters for how the progress will be reported has not yet been determined.

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