Iowa Public Broadcasting Sheds Light on Sanderson Farms and the Complex Issue of Antibiotic Use in Poultry Production

LAUREL, Miss. (Nov. 22, 2016) – This week, Iowa Public Broadcasting’s (IPB) “Market to Market” covered the complex issue of antibiotic use in poultry production. The report highlights the country’s third largest poultry producer, Sanderson Farms, and the reasoning behind their decision to continue the judicious use of antibiotics. IPB Producer, Colleen Bradford Krantz, also spoke to Perdue and others within the industry to show how advertising is playing a large role in consumer choice.

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“The most recent federal report shows that only 9 of more than 6,000 animals randomly tested at U.S. packing plants – almost two-tenths of one percent – had higher-than-allowed levels of substances such as antibiotics. None were poultry.

Yet, according to a National Chicken Council 2015 survey, 73 percent of Americans believe antibiotics are present in most chicken meat. For meat producers, this common misconception can clash with the old adage: ‘the customer is always right.’”


“Hans Coetzee clinical pharmacology professor, Iowa State: ‘I think the interesting thing is how we relate to animals in our homes versus how we relate to animals in livestock production systems. I think most people – including our household – would consider our pet to be part of our family, and you wouldn’t for a moment consider withholding antibiotics from a member of your family if the animal or child requires an antibiotic.’”

“Simultaneously, Mississippi-based Sanderson Farms, the number-three producer, explains it will still use a class of antibiotics intended only for animals.

Lampkin Butts, president/chief operating officer, Sanderson Farms: ‘I will tell you it has been a hard decision. It has been difficult. We feel like we are swimming upstream to tell you the truth.’

Sanderson Farms has carefully measured consumer reaction to the new ads rolled out in August 2016 and discovered about 65 percent wanted to learn more:

“We always believed: let’s tell the customer the truth. Let’s tell the consumer the truth. The truth will stand the test of time. And that’s what we are doing with this issue.’”
“According to the National Chicken Council, the average chicken mortality rate at commercial broiler operations was 4.8 percent in 2015. NCC officials say that percentage has increased slightly over previous years, in part due to the effort to use fewer antibiotics. Sanderson said its 2015 mortality rate was 3.9 percent. Perdue said that information was ‘confidential’ but added that their rate was ‘at or above the national average.’”
“Sanderson Farms, whose contract farmers raise 10 million chickens a week, use antibiotics in the hatcheries and animal-only medicine in feed, stopping in advance of the mandatory withdrawal period. Otherwise, the medically important antibiotics are only used to treat sick birds or flocks.

Lampkin Butts, president/chief operating officer, Sanderson Farms: ‘Our vets have all taken an oath to treat animals and keep animals healthy … We have heard from other vets and other companies that they respect our position.’”