As KFC shuns some antibiotics, U.S. chicken industry deploys wet wipes, oregano
By Tom Polansek and Lisa Baertlein
CHICAGO/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - To meet increasing demand for meat raised without certain antibiotics, top U.S. chicken company Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N: Quote) and rival producers are turning to sanitizing wipes, bacteria-reducing fog and even oregano to keep birds healthy.
Some have spent years of trial and error on new techniques to figure out replacements for human drugs, part of a fight against the rise of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria in people.
Yum Brands Inc's (YUM.N: Quote) KFC on Friday became the last of the big three U.S. chicken restaurants to move away from antibiotics important to human medicine. McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: Quote) and privately held Chick-fil-A had already made similar commitments.
Nationwide, more than 42 percent of the U.S. chicken industry has already committed to reducing the use of antibiotics, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. With KFC's move, that number is set to grow.
KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman called the chain's move a "major milestone" that should significantly increase the supply of bone-in chicken raised without medically important antibiotics. It should also open the door for smaller chains to follow KFC's move, he told Reuters.
KFC, which sells more than 65 million buckets of chicken a year, estimated that one-third of its suppliers were already transitioning to chicken raised with fewer antibiotics.
The company said it was late to shift away from human antibiotics because it had to persuade suppliers of bone-in chickens it uses to make the change.
The chain typically only buys up to one-third of birds in a flock because the others do not meet its specifications. That meant its suppliers needed to find other buyers before being able to curb use of the drugs to satisfy KFC, the company said. Continued...