Cargill is eliminating the use of growth-promoting antibiotics in turkeys raised for its Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms brands. In doing so, Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms will be the first major turkey brands to remove growth-promoting antibiotics from all turkeys across the independent farms they work with, without charging a premium price, the company stated. 

The move away from growth-promoting antibiotics will be phased in. Consumers will be able to purchase fresh, whole turkeys raised without growth-promoting antibiotics for the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday under Cargill’s signature brand labels, Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms. By the end of 2015, all Cargill turkey flocks will be free of growth-promoting antibiotics.

Cargill responds to consumer concerns over antibiotics

Consumer concerns over responsible use of antibiotics in animal production has made many people more curious about how their food is produced, but only slightly more than half read nutrition labels or ingredient lists. However, 62 percent of consumers would be very, or extremely, interested in purchasing turkey that has not received growth stimulants, the company stated.

“Consumer research tells us people are more interested than ever in where their food comes from and how it is produced,” said Ruth Kimmelshue, president of the Cargill Turkey & Cooked Meats business. “We believe ending the use of antibiotics to promote growth in turkeys is an important step that provides consumers with nutritious and affordable options. Working with our broad network of independent farmers, Cargill has the experience, resources and capabilities to successfully make this change and meet the needs of our customers and consumers.” 

Cargill will still use antibiotics to treat, prevent disease

While Cargill will be doing away with growth-promoting antibiotics, it will continue to judiciously use antibiotics for animal health purposes.

Cargill’s farmer partners have been trained on industry leading animal handling practices established by the National Turkey Federation, which enables handlers to provide the best care for the animals. The health and wellness of animals is of utmost importance to Cargill, and antibiotics will still be administered under the supervision of a veterinarian to treat and prevent disease.

Cargill turkeys will be raised following verification process guidelines

Cargill committed to eliminating growth promoting antibiotics after working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a three-part verification process for turkey production that exceeds all current government and industry standards. That process requires that:

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  • All turkeys are raised by independent farmers
  • Producers are trained on proper animal handling practices
  • No antibiotics are used for growth promotion (antibiotics only used for treatment of illness and disease prevention)

Cargill’s initiative to remove growth-promoting antibiotics was reinforced in December 2013 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a three-year plan to phase out the use of antibiotics that are medically important in human health and are also used to improve growth or feed efficiency in livestock and poultry.