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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 received the inexperienced gentle, 4 a warning gentle, and three manufacturers a purple gentle, based mostly on details about antibiotic use within the turkeys discovered on the businesses’ web sites.

Trade officers took subject 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 in opposition to threats to public well being and security. Its report, “Speaking Turkey,” was launched at this time.

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

Below FDA rules, medically vital drugs that struggle 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 stop illness, she says. Some public well being specialists say the coverage must 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 subject.

What the Report Discovered

The U.S. Public Curiosity Analysis Group, or U.S. PIRG, evaluated 15 fashionable turkey manufacturers, learning 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 purple classes, from most ultimate to least.

Inexperienced-light firms have publicly obtainable data on their web sites saying they prohibit using all antibiotics or the routine use of medically vital antibiotics for all complete turkeys bought.

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 keeping with data on their web sites, firms within the yellow class might supply strains of complete turkeys raised with out antibiotics, or with out routine use of medically vital antibiotics. However the coverage doesn’t essentially apply to the entire complete turkeys bought by that model, based mostly on web site data, U.S. PIRG says.

4 firms are on this yellow class:

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

Firms within the purple class don’t have any or restricted details about antibiotic use in complete turkeys on their web site; the info there suggests they proceed to make use of medically vital antibiotics routinely to stop illness in well being animals, U.S. PIRG says.

Pink class firms embrace:

  • Honeysuckle White
  • Shady Brook Farms
  • Signature Farms

Trade Response

Beth Breeding, a spokesperson for the Nationwide Turkey Federation, an business group, reviewed the report and responded. “Nationwide Turkey Federation members are dedicated to the considered use of antibiotics in turkey manufacturing, and the business has prioritized reducing the necessity for using antibiotics used to deal with individuals 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 firms talked about weren’t contacted, she says.

The report is deceptive and mistaken, 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 isn’t 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. “Practically 50 p.c of the birds bought below the Honeysuckle White model and Shady Brook Farms model are antibiotic-free, which 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 wherever within the report.”

Extra on FDA Rules, Public Well being Considerations

The FDA up to date its rules about medically vital 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 keeping with the CDC, annually within the U.S., no less than 2.8 million individuals get an antibiotic-resistant an infection, and greater than 35,000 die.

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

Knowledgeable Perspective

“The report exhibits 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 applications,” he says.

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

Customers can even search for particular phrases on the turkey label, similar to “No antibiotics administered,” “Raised with out antibiotics,” or “No antibiotics ever,” in line 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 Client 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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