Farmers report growing demand for meat without antibiotics

Global Business

New U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules could put prevent farmers from frequently using antibiotics on their livestock to prevent disease and increase in size. The rules could impact nearly 80 percent of the chickens, pigs, and cows bound for grocery-store shelves. CCTV America’s Ginger Vaughn reported this story from Bellville, Texas.

Last year, the FDA announced plans to reduce antibiotic use in animals intended for human consumption and more retailers are looking for products with that are hormone-free and do not include antibiotics.

Rookie poultry farmer Julie Everett said she’s found a way to keep her chickens healthy without antibiotics thanks to advice she’s gotten from someone a lot more experienced in the poultry business.

“When a chicken got sick I’d automatically add antibiotics to their water to make them better. Since we’ve known Mrs. Mary Anne, she’s the one who recommended the probiotics to me and I’ve been using it for the past six months, and I haven’t lost a chicken at all in those six months. They are much healthier,” said Everett.

Antibiotic-free chickens are a big selling point for MaryAnn Fordyce and her Blue Star Ranch. Local growers and producers say the use of more natural methods without using antibiotics has been around for a while, but has only recently been adopted by bigger meat producers due to growing demand by health-conscious consumers.

Fordyce said she has been using probiotics, the healthy bacteria in active yogurt cultures, as an alternative for years, mainly for health reasons, but also because consumer tastes are changing.

“Consumers are constantly asking me and I find and help them get chickens that are organically raised and not introduced to antibiotics, so yes it’s a very much a growing trend,” she said.

In February 2014, Chick-fil-A Inc., the largest restaurant seller of chicken in the U.S., said it would stop selling chicken raised with antibiotics within five years.

The use of antibiotics in meant remains prevalent around the world. Agricultural economist David Anderson said giving animals antibiotics is a standard practice to combat illness and that it shouldn’t be confused with antibiotics used for growth.

“The animals are healthier because you’re suppressing all the bugs, they gain weight faster, so that’s the kind of the production use side of antibiotics and most countries allow that,” he said.

Anderson says growing poultry and livestock without antibiotics is hard for producers, and adopting alternatives ones won’t be cheap. Increased consumer demand should bring down costs, he added.

“I can definitely say it is a growing trend, a lot of people, a lot of consumers want more healthy meat, a better grade of meat, and they want to get away from antibiotics, so I believe the FDA will play a role in that and eventually that is going to trickle down to the consumer where more and more is going to become available on a regular basis,” said Fordyce.