Cargill expands antibiotic-free turkey line

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 Cargill's Honest Turkey logo

WICHITA, Kan. – Cargill is expanding its line of antibiotic-free turkey products with the introduction of Honest Turkey, a line of products sourced from turkeys never treated with antibiotics.

“Eliminating antibiotic use for disease prevention purposes is the next logical step after ending the use of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes, which we began in 2014,” Jan Hood, head of marketing for the Cargill turkey business, said in a news release. “Based on consumer research and their desire for transparency in food production, we developed the Honest Turkey product line, which communicates the turkeys are raised without antibiotics.”

The Honest Turkey line springs from the company’s larger initiative to reduce antibiotics use in its meat and poultry businesses. Cargill recently ended the use of gentamicin — an antibiotic used in both humans and animals — for disease prevention in turkeys harvested for its two largest brands, Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms.  Gentamicin is an FDA-approved shared-class antibiotic, meaning it is used in both human and animal health.  The antibiotic is administered to newborn turkey poults during the critical period after hatching. The company noted that turkeys will continue to receive antibiotics for control and treatment of disease.

“To successfully meet the increasing demand from our customers for antibiotic-free turkey, we start with a larger number of birds than required knowing a percentage may become ill, require antibiotics and be removed from our antibiotic-free turkey program,” said Tim Maupin, head of turkey agriculture operations for Cargill. “We have an obligation to treat turkeys that get sick because we want healthy birds and it’s the right thing to do.”

In its beef business, Cargill announced a 20 percent reduction in shared-class antibiotics used at four beef cattle feed yards owned by the company, as well as five additional feed yards owned by companies that supply Cargill with beef cattle.

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