Tyson Foods, Inc., the largest U.S. poultry producer, has announced its intention to phase out the use of human antibiotics in its chicken flocks by the end of September 2017.
The move comes after McDonald's announced that its U.S. restaurants would gradually stop buying chickens given human antibiotics over next two years. However, Reuters quoted a statement from the company which said that the decision was part of an ongoing effort and goes "beyond one customer."
Announcing its plans on Tuesday, Tyson Foods said that it has already stopped using all antibiotics in its 35 broiler hatcheries, requires a veterinary prescription for antibiotics used on broiler farms and has reduced human antibiotics used to treat broiler chickens by more than 80 percent since 2011.
"Antibiotic-resistant infections are a global health concern," commented president and CEO Donnie Smith. "We're confident our meat and poultry products are safe, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they're needed to treat illness."
Smith went on to explain that the company is forming working groups with independent farmers and others in the company's beef, pork and turkey supply chains to discuss ways to reduce the use of human antibiotics on cattle, hog and turkey farms. These working groups will begin meeting this summer.
Tyson Foods said that its international business is committed to taking similar measures on antibiotic use in its chicken operations, but has not set a timeframe.