100% Natural Truth About Antibiotics
At Sanderson Farms, we take very seriously our commitment to 100% Natural chicken and 100% honesty in all of our business dealings. Consistent with these commitments, our company is very transparent regarding the use of antibiotics in poultry production and how that use impacts our 100% Natural brand of chicken.
During the 1990s, Sanderson Farms began labeling our poultry products as 100% Natural, meaning there are no additives, artificial ingredients or preservatives added to our fresh chicken. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), foods labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed with no artificial ingredients.
Sanderson Farms firmly stands behind its commitment to making sure its Sanderson Farms brand of chicken is truly 100% Natural. Some companies inject their fresh chicken products with a solution that can include water, salt, broth, carrageenan (a seaweed extract) or phosphates, which artificially increase the market weight of the finished poultry product. Sanderson Farms 100% Natural chicken always consists of a single-ingredient product— 100% natural chicken.
As the nation’s third largest poultry producer, Sanderson Farms is also committed to hatching, raising and harvesting our chickens right here in the United States of America. As our product labels proudly state, all Sanderson Farms chicken products are homegrown in the United States and never imported from outside the country.
As part of our commitment to providing safe, wholesome chicken products to our customers, the responsible use of antibiotics is certainly not something that our company takes lightly. Sanderson Farms’ policy on antibiotic use is founded on three principles we deem imperative to the operation of our business consistent with the values on which the company was founded: people, animals and the environment in which we live.
Since the company was founded in 1947 as a small feed, seed and farm supply business, Sanderson Farms has adhered to the same hometown values of honesty, integrity and innovation that were established when the Sanderson family founded the company more than 68 years ago. In light of recent publicity surrounding the use of antibiotics by livestock and poultry producers, we feel that now, as much as ever, is the time for Sanderson Farms to remain true to our founders’ values of honesty and integrity. Values such as these compel us to protect and sustain the health of our people, animals and environment.
In an effort to safeguard the health of people, including our customers and consumers who buy our products, it is important to consider the lack of scientific evidence supporting the correlation between antibiotic treatment in farm animals and subsequent antibiotic resistance in humans. Although some consumers are concerned that antibiotic use in food animals may lead to antibiotic resistance in humans, it has not been scientifically proven that consuming meat from animals treated with antibiotics actually contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans.
“Antibiotic resistance transfer tends to be more direct, such as person to person,” said Dr. Phil Stayer, Corporate Veterinarian for Sanderson Farms. “For antibiotic resistance to transfer from food animals to consumers, the bacteria would have to survive through many preventative measures in our country’s modern food chain.”
As a food provider, people are, of course, our first priority when making decisions that impact the quality and safety of our food products and the health of consumers who enjoy our products. Ceasing the use of antibiotics could make our company’s food safety efforts significantly more difficult. Sanderson Farms strives to be on the leading edge of quality control in our industry. As a result, we often go beyond what is required by USDA standards to ensure that our customers receive the safest and highest quality products available on the market.
Sick birds, or birds that do not have access to appropriate treatment when they become ill, are likely to have much heavier loads of bacteria at the time of processing. According to Sanderson Farms’ Corporate Quality Assurance Manager, Dr. Jonathan James, when there are fewer pathogens delivered to the processing facility, it is much easier for our multi-hurdle antimicrobial strategy to further reduce the amount of bacteria present on the finished product. Thus, lower bacteria counts, including pathogens, mean a safer product for our customers.
As required by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), no chicken produced or sold by Sanderson Farms contains any antibiotic residue and, by that definition, our chicken is already antibiotic free. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service conducts residue detection programs on all meat and poultry products to ensure that no antibiotics are detected.
Sanderson Farms’ Director of Technical Services, Dr. Marty Ewing, explained that the company also takes samples of poultry to further confirm that Sanderson Farms’ poultry meat is free of antibiotics. “Our primary responsibility in producing chicken is to provide people with safe, wholesome and high quality products,” said Dr. Ewing.
“As evidenced by the experience of poultry producers in Europe, sick animals that go untreated carry higher loads of bacteria, which directly detracts from our company’s advances in food safety,” continued Dr. Ewing. “Sanderson Farms’ obligation to produce a safe product for our customers and consumers simply compels us to continue the responsible and judicious use of FDA-approved antibiotics when recommended by a licensed veterinarian.”
Considering the millions of birds entrusted to Sanderson Farms’ stewardship on a given day, one of our primary concerns is the health and well-being of those animals. To reinforce our commitment to natural ingredients and exceptional products, Sanderson Farms remains actively involved in the preservation of our animals’ welfare and, as a result, we exercise all measures to ensure that they are provided with the best possible care.
“All of us have a moral responsibility to relieve the suffering of animals, whether that animal is one raised for meat production or is a household pet,” said Lampkin Butts, President and Chief Operating Officer for Sanderson Farms. “At Sanderson Farms, our veterinarians design preventative health programs through biosecurity measures [preventing disease exposure] and vaccination [building immunity prior to exposure], as there are already very few approved antibiotic options available for use in poultry production.”
While good poultry husbandry and live management practices can reduce the need for antibiotic treatments, there is one condition that cannot be treated without antibiotics, and that is a condition commonly afflicting chickens called enteritis. Enteritis is a digestive condition initiated by parasites similar to those found in puppies and kittens that can not only make chickens ill, but it is often fatal if gone untreated. There are currently no alternative treatments available to address this condition, and refusing to treat sick chickens with FDA-approved antibiotics is simply not consistent with our company’s animal welfare obligations.
“Doctors of veterinary medicine take an oath to use their knowledge and skill for the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources and the promotion of human well-being.” said Dr. Stayer. “Just as these high standards leave no room for compromise in the veterinary profession, Sanderson Farms believes likewise that its responsibility for the welfare of animals under its stewardship and the promotion of human well-being cannot be compromised.”
In addition to our accountability for the health and safety of people and animals, Sanderson Farms feels compelled to manage our operations in a manner that protects vital resources and minimizes our impact on the environment around us. Our company strives daily to optimize the efficiency of our operations, to minimize our energy and water use, to reduce waste and to reuse materials wherever possible.
As Sanderson Farms has grown over the past 68 years, so have our responsibilities. We understand our actions and decisions have an impact on the world around us, which is why we feel so strongly about keeping all appropriate and safe treatments available in poultry production. At this point, you may be wondering how our birds’ health can even relate to the company’s environmental impact.
Well, the answer is simple. Sick chickens require more resources to survive than healthy chickens. Such resources include more chicken houses, electricity and water, as well as feed ingredients. Because sick chickens perform less efficiently than healthy birds, it takes more feed to raise unhealthy poultry. More feed means more acres of corn and soybeans would be required.
Additional acres for crops require additional fertilizer. More fertilizer means more possibility of pollution. More acres mean more tractors. More tractors use more fuel. Considering the number of farm animals raised for food in the United States, even small increases in the consumption of vital resources can have a significant environmental impact.
As a result, Sanderson Farms has an obligation to future generations to produce our poultry products in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, which includes using the fewest vital resources possible when producing our products. Without treatment for sick birds, our company simply cannot meet our goals for environmental responsibility and sustainability for future generations.
Although no alternative treatments have become available that meet our strict standards for maintaining the health of people, animals and the environment, Sanderson Farms is committed to identifying and implementing viable antibiotic alternatives as they become available.
“You have our personal commitment that we will continue to work with suppliers to find alternatives to antibiotics that are important to human medicine, as well as doing all that we can to contribute to the development and use of those alternative treatments,” said Joe Sanderson, Jr., Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer for Sanderson Farms.
Our company firmly stands behind our commitment to keeping things the way nature intended them, which includes protecting and sustaining the health of people, animals and the environment in which we live. Sanderson Farms’ 100% Natural brand of chicken is the product of those three commitments, and we hope that knowledge instills confidence in our customers in light of public concern regarding the safety of the food we consume daily.
So what is in Sanderson Farms 100% Natural chicken? Only chicken. No added hormones. No residual antibiotics or other chemicals. And we mean that 100%.