Cargill phasing out growth-promoting antibiotics in turkeys

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One of the nation’s largest turkey producers will stop feeding growth-promoting antibiotics to its birds.

The Star Tribune reports that Cargill's signature Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms brands will become the first major turkey brands to remove antibiotics as a feed supplement.

 Food Safety News reported that both the Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkeys will be available without the growth-promoting antibiotics this Thanksgiving. The report adds that all of the company’s flocks will be raised without growth-promoting antibiotics by the end of 2015. Cargill’s limited use of antibiotics is so far limited to whole turkeys.

A Cargill press release said the change is being made is “based on consumer research and feedback.” Producers of turkeys, pork and other food animals have routinely used antibiotics to boost growth in livestock. Over time, people have become more resistant to antibiotics, and several studies indicate the prevalence of antibiotics in meat is linked to human antibiotic resistance.

According to the Minnesota Turkey website, Minnesota’s turkey industry is the No. 1 turkey producing and processing state in the country, with 250 family farmers raising approximately 47 million turkeys annually.

Cargill will continue to use antibiotics for illness treatment in turkeys and for disease prevention.

Steven Roach, senior analyst with Keep Antibiotics Working, told Food Safety News that although it’s encouraging that Cargill is recognizing what consumers want, the move is not enough to address the rise of antibiotic resistance.

“This is too little, too late,” Roach said, adding that rather than creating “a marketing campaign for how people view their product,” Cargill should commit to reducing overall antibiotic use by tracking the amount used before and after the end of growth promotion.

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