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Thanksgiving Information: Discovering Antibiotic-Free Turkeys


Nov. 20, 2020 — As Individuals store for his or her Thanksgiving turkeys, a public well being advocacy group has issued a buying guide that charges manufacturers based mostly on their antibiotic use insurance policies.

Of the 15 manufacturers evaluated, eight bought the inexperienced gentle, 4 a warning gentle, and three manufacturers a pink gentle, based mostly on details about antibiotic use within the turkeys discovered on the businesses’ web sites.

Business officers took concern with the report’s findings.

The information about antibiotic use in turkey manufacturing, total, is encouraging, says Sydney Riess, a public well being campaigns affiliate for the U.S. Public Curiosity Analysis Group, a federation of state teams that advocate towards threats to public well being and security. Its report, “Speaking Turkey,” was launched as we speak.

However, Riess says, “We additionally know there’s a lengthy option to go.”

Below FDA laws, medically essential drugs that battle germs, outlined as these wanted to deal with human illness, can’t be utilized in turkeys and different feed animals to advertise development however can be utilized to forestall illness, she says. Some public well being consultants say the coverage needs to be stricter, permitting the antibiotics for use solely to deal with sick animals identified by a licensed vet or, in some instances, to manage a verified illness outbreak. Overuse of antibiotics results in antibiotic resistance, an rising international well being concern.

What the Report Discovered

The U.S. Public Curiosity Analysis Group, or U.S. PIRG, evaluated 15 fashionable turkey manufacturers, finding out every model’s web site to search out out about its coverage on antibiotic use. Utilizing that knowledge, it divided the businesses into inexperienced, yellow, or pink classes, from most very best to least.

Inexperienced-light corporations have publicly out there data on their web sites saying they prohibit using all antibiotics or the routine use of medically essential antibiotics for all complete turkeys offered.

Of the 15 manufacturers studied, eight have been labeled within the inexperienced class:

  • Fossil Farms
  • Koch’s
  • Murray’s
  • Nature’s Rancher
  • Norbest
  • Natural Prairie
  • Perdue
  • Plainville Farms

In accordance with data on their web sites, corporations within the yellow class might supply traces of complete turkeys raised with out antibiotics, or with out routine use of medically essential antibiotics. However the coverage doesn’t essentially apply to the entire complete turkeys offered by that model, based mostly on web site data, U.S. PIRG says.

4 corporations are on this yellow class:

  • Butterball
  • Foster Farms
  • Jennie-O
  • Northern Pleasure

Firms within the pink class haven’t any or restricted details about antibiotic use in complete turkeys on their web site; the information there suggests they proceed to make use of medically essential antibiotics routinely to forestall illness in well being animals, U.S. PIRG says.

Pink class corporations embrace:

  • Honeysuckle White
  • Shady Brook Farms
  • Signature Farms

Business Response

Beth Breeding, a spokesperson for the Nationwide Turkey Federation, an trade group, reviewed the report and responded. “Nationwide Turkey Federation members are dedicated to the considered use of antibiotics in turkey manufacturing, and the trade has prioritized lowering the necessity for using antibiotics used to deal with folks whereas sustaining our dedication to animal welfare,” she says.

Breeding says the report ”has quite a few omissions and errors.” Amongst them, a number of corporations talked about weren’t contacted, she says.

The report is deceptive and flawed, says Daniel Sullivan, a spokesperson for Cargill, which sells Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkeys. “The error is that they’re making these claims based mostly solely on what’s or will not be revealed on a product web site, not any precise knowledge,” he says. His firm doesn’t use antibiotics in its turkeys in a preventive vogue (on wholesome animals) and hasn’t since 2016, he says. “Almost 50 % of the birds offered below the Honeysuckle White model and Shady Brook Farms model are antibiotic-free, that means they have been by no means used. The Trustworthy Turkey model [also a Cargill brand] is 100% antibiotic free. No point out of that anyplace within the report.”

Extra on FDA Laws, Public Well being Considerations

The FDA up to date its laws about medically essential antibiotic use in food-producing animals in 2017, saying these medicines could also be used solely within the feed or consuming water of food-producing animals with veterinary oversight and cannot be used to spice up development.

In accordance with the CDC, annually within the U.S., no less than 2.8 million folks get an antibiotic-resistant an infection, and greater than 35,000 die.

In accordance with U.S. PIRG, in 2017, turkey manufacturing used practically 18 occasions extra medically essential antibiotics than rooster per pound of meat produced.

Skilled Perspective

“The report reveals that there was progress among the many high contemporary turkey producers in lowering overuse [of antibiotics],” says Steven Roach, food safety program director for Meals Animal Considerations Belief, a nonprofit advocating for animal welfare, who reviewed the report.

“Perdue [a major producer] now not permits routine antibiotic use, and another main producers are advertising some turkey raised in diminished antibiotic use packages,” he says.

“The report supplies a useful instrument for customers who’re searching for a turkey and need to reward corporations doing the proper factor on antibiotics. One problem for customers and shopper advocates is the shortage of transparency by corporations in how they’re truly utilizing antibiotics on their farms.”

Customers may also search for particular phrases on the turkey label, corresponding to “No antibiotics administered,” “Raised with out antibiotics,” or “No antibiotics ever,” in accordance with U.S. PIRG.

WebMD Well being Information


Sydney Riess, public well being campaigns affiliate, U.S. Public Curiosity Analysis Group.

U.S. Public Curiosity Analysis Group: “Speaking Turkey: A Shopper Information to Shopping for Turkey Raised With out Overusing Antibiotics.”

Steven Roach, meals security program director, Meals Animal Considerations Belief, Chicago.

Beth Breeding, spokesperson, Nationwide Turkey Federation, Washington, D.C.

Daniel Sullivan, spokesperson, Cargill, Minneapolis.

CDC: “Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance (AR/AMR).”

FDA: “Antimicrobial Resistance.”


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