Bill Lovette, president and CEO of Pilgrim's Pride Corp.
Pilgrim's CEO Bill Lovette notes key customers say antibiotic-free chicken is a growing part of their business.

GREELEY, Colo. – Pilgrim's Pride Corp., a unit of JBS SA, plans to eliminate antibiotics from 25 percent of the company's poultry production by the end of 2018, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The company declined further comment.

In an interview, Bill Lovette, CEO, said the company has invested in probiotics to improve gut health in chickens in addition to biosecurity measures to reduce reliance on the drugs to fight disease. He added that antibiotics important to human medicine will be eliminated from Pilgrim's hatcheries within 18 months.

Major companies in the producer, retail and foodservice segments have announced timetables by which antibiotics will be eliminated from food supplies. For example:

• Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's US announced in March the company's intention to only buy chickens raised without antibiotics important to human health.

• Costco Wholesale Corp. said in March that the company is working with poultry suppliers and regulatory agencies to develop a strategy for eliminating the use of antibiotics in its poultry supply chain.

• In January, Perdue Foodservice, a unit of Perdue Foods, Salisbury, Md., announced plans to bring its no-antibiotics-ever chicken products to the K-12 segment.