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Thanksgiving Information: Discovering Antibiotic-Free Turkeys

Nov. 20, 2020 — As People 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 obtained the inexperienced mild, 4 a warning mild, and three manufacturers a crimson mild, based mostly on details about antibiotic use within the turkeys discovered on the businesses’ web sites.

Business officers took difficulty with the report’s findings.

The information about antibiotic use in turkey manufacturing, general, 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 present.

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

Underneath FDA rules, medically vital drugs that combat germs, outlined as these wanted to deal with human illness, can’t be utilized in turkeys and different feed animals to advertise progress 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 recognized by a licensed vet or, in some circumstances, to regulate a verified illness outbreak. Overuse of antibiotics results in antibiotic resistance, an rising international well being difficulty.

What the Report Discovered

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

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

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

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

In line with info on their web sites, firms within the yellow class could provide 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 all the complete turkeys bought by that model, based mostly on web site info, U.S. PIRG says.

4 firms are on this yellow class:

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

Corporations within the crimson 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 vital antibiotics routinely to stop illness in well being animals, U.S. PIRG says.

Purple class firms embody:

  • 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 reducing the necessity for the usage of 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 improper, 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 just isn’t revealed on a product web site, not any precise information,” 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 bought beneath the Honeysuckle White model and Shady Brook Farms model are antibiotic-free, that means they have been by no means used. The Sincere Turkey model [also a Cargill brand] is 100% antibiotic free. No point out of that wherever within the report.”

Extra on FDA Laws, Public Well being Issues

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 ingesting water of food-producing animals with veterinary oversight and cannot be used to spice up progress.

In line with the CDC, every year within the U.S., no less than 2.8 million individuals get an antibiotic-resistant an infection, and greater than 35,000 die.

In line with U.S. PIRG, in 2017, turkey manufacturing used practically 18 instances extra medically vital antibiotics than hen per pound of meat produced.

Skilled Perspective

“The report reveals that there was progress among the many prime contemporary turkey producers in lowering overuse [of antibiotics],” says Steven Roach, food safety program director for Meals Animal Issues 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 and marketing some turkey raised in diminished antibiotic use applications,” he says.

“The report gives a useful instrument for shoppers who’re on the lookout for a turkey and need to reward firms doing the fitting factor on antibiotics. One problem for shoppers and shopper advocates is the dearth 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, reminiscent of “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 Client Information to Shopping for Turkey Raised With out Overusing Antibiotics.”

Steven Roach, meals security program director, Meals Animal Issues 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.”


© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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