Tyson Foods, Inc., said Tuesday that it would phase out human antibiotic use in its U.S. broiler chicken flocks by the end of September, 2017.
The company said it will report annually on its progress, beginning with its fiscal 2015 Sustainability Report.
Tyson Foods 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% since 2011, the company said.
Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods said the shift was made because Tyson wants to do its part in reducing human antibiotics use on the farm so these medicines can continue working.
"Given the progress we've already made reducing antibiotics in our broilers, we believe it's realistic to shoot for zero by the end of our 2017 fiscal year," Smith said. "But we won't jeopardize animal well-being just to get there. We'll use the best available treatments to keep our chickens healthy, under veterinary supervision."
More work ahead on antibiotics in livestock phase-out
Tyson Foods is also 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. Those groups will begin meeting this summer.
Tyson Foods' international business is committed to taking similar measures on antibiotic use in its global chicken operations but has not set a timeframe.
Keeping animals healthy
Tyson Foods said it plans to work with food industry, government, veterinary, public health and academic communities, and provide funding, to accelerate research into disease prevention and antibiotic alternatives on the farm.
The company is also getting input from its Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel, which is made up of independent advisors.
"One of our core values is to serve as responsible stewards of animals – we will not let sick animals suffer," Smith said. "We believe it's our responsibility to help drive action towards sustainable solutions to this challenge by working with our chicken, turkey, beef and pork supply chains."
Smith said today's announcement will not materially affect the company's financial performance.