Tyson Foods has removed gentamicin, a key antibiotic for human use, from company hatcheries. Gentamicin is a member of an antibiotic class considered "highly important" in human medicine by the Food and Drug Administration.
Tyson Foods, the largest poultry company in the United States, said the drug and other antibiotics have not been used at its 35 hatcheries since October 1, 2014. The company had not previously given details of what antibiotics were used at the hatcheries, where chicks are born and kept briefly before being moved to poultry farms.
Tyson stated it is also testing alternatives to medically-important antibiotics for use on the farms that house its chickens after they leave the hatcheries. It says it does not use antibiotics for growth promotion on the farms, but does use them, according to its website, "when prescribed by a veterinarian to treat or prevent disease."
Gentamicin has been commonly used in hatcheries to fight off infection or prevent disease, including in fertilized eggs, livestock veterinarians and other poultry producers say.
Tyson sees the policy shift as "a significant first step toward our goal of reducing the use of antibiotics that are also used in human medicine," according to its website.
Tyson has reduced the volume of medically-important antibiotics used in its chicken business by 84 percent since 2011 and the "vast majority of the antibiotics used to raise our chickens are never used in humans," according to a company statement.