Sanderson Farms Responds to Our Consumers Concerns
LAUREL, MS (June 6, 2016) – Sanderson Farms, Inc. (NASDAQ: SAFM) President and COO, Lampkin Butts, today issued the following open letter regarding the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria, as cited in a recent report by the Review On Antimicrobial Resistance. While the report mentions many reasons for concern, including over-prescription, sanitation and the need for better research, among others, we at Sanderson Farms share consumers’ concern about antibiotic resistance and are doing our part to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics.
Producing safe food is one of Sanderson Farms’ top priorities and responsibilities. We would never do anything that would compromise the safety of the food you serve your families, or that we serve ours. Indeed, as noted in the report cited in your correspondence, maintaining food security is one reason antibiotic use in agriculture is required, as healthy food animals carry lower bacteria levels, lower salmonella counts and are safer. We have an obligation to you and other consumers to produce the safest, most wholesome product possible using the approved tools at our disposal.
We also strongly believe we have an obligation for the safety and wellbeing of the animals under our care. This obligation requires that we use antibiotics in a responsible manner to ensure the animals under our care don’t suffer when they get sick and to prevent disease when we can, while also contributing to food safety. Again, as also noted in the report cited in your correspondence, maintaining animal welfare is the second circumstance requiring antibiotic use in agriculture. We are indeed pleased the authors of the study cited in your correspondence share our belief that preventing animal suffering is the ethical thing to do.
That said, we share your concern regarding the development of antibiotic resistance. We do take some comfort in that regard by the multiple systems in place to ensure meat is safe. These systems include, in addition to veterinary oversight of antibiotic administration, requirements for antibiotic withdrawal periods in food animals. Routine testing of meat by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as our own routine testing both on the farm and in the processing plant ensure these guidelines are met.
Recently, more and more companies are using marketing tactics including food labels to tout that their meat is “antibiotic free.” What this label actually means is that this animal was raised without the benefits of antibiotics. We feel that within our obligation to be good stewards of antibiotics, we also have an obligation to use antibiotics judiciously when required to address disease in our flocks. We would like to emphasize that antibiotics are not our primary, or our only means of assuring animal health and welfare in our flocks. Our primary means include strict biosecurity practices, selection of the best genetics for disease resistance, proper nutrition, vaccines, and environmental control. Antibiotics comprise a small portion of strategies to prevent disease, and a major component in our ability to address disease when it does occur.
The report cited in your correspondence warns that the largest threat related to the development of antibiotic resistance comes from other countries, which fail to report the use of antibiotics, or use them irresponsibly in both humans and in agriculture. The report notes that the overuse of antibiotics in other countries’ agricultural industries may be an attempt to compensate for poor farming practices. It is important to note the report cites many reasons for the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and goes to great pains to illustrate this as a global problem. However, of the 84 pages in the report, only six of those pages focused on the use of antibiotics in agriculture.
Sanderson Farms fully agrees with the report’s conclusion that, “In order to monitor and provide appropriate oversight of antimicrobial use in agriculture, many countries, especially some low and middle-income countries will need to develop better systems of veterinary oversight.” At Sanderson Farms, we not only have more veterinarians per chicken than almost any other producer in the nation, but we also have a dedicated team of specialists committed to the health and wellbeing of our flocks. Furthermore, all decisions regarding antibiotic usage are made by veterinarians, who are bound by their professional oath to protect animal health, promote human health and prevent and relieve animal suffering. Their decisions are consistent with FDA guidelines and they only use medications approved by the FDA for use in farm animals.
Again, as the report states, “There are clearly circumstances where antibiotics are required in agriculture and aquaculture. Their proper use can maintain animal health and welfare, as well as food security.” We agree. Antibiotics are an important tool to keep animals healthy, prevent animal suffering and produce healthy affordable food.
Scientific evidence acknowledges that the use of antibiotic in people is the primary driver of antibiotic resistance. In a 2013 report, the Centers for Disease Control identified the most concerning public health threats from antibiotic resistant bacteria, which you mention in your letter. It is important to note that none of the most urgent threats cited in that study have any relation to farm animals. On the broader CDC list, which includes less urgent threats, only two of 18 involve bacteria may be considered as associated with farm animals through potential food transmission.
At Sanderson Farms our main goal has always been, and continues to be, providing our customers and their families the freshest and healthiest products in the world. We appreciate hearing from you and the opportunity to address your concerns. We hope this letter answers your questions. If not, we welcome any additional questions you may have by contacting me at [email protected]. We would like all of our customers to share our confidence in the safety of our products and the ethics behind our practices.
President and COO
Sanderson Farms, Inc.