Tyson Foods will meet its financial goals despite uncertainty over consumer attitudes toward antibiotics, company executives say.
Speaking at a Consumer Analyst Group of Europe conference on March 18 in London, Dennis Leathery, chief financial officer, said Tyson Foods is well-suited to adapt to customer demand regarding how poultry is raised.
"A couple of weeks ago many of you may have seen an announcement by McDonald's about sourcing chicken without antibiotics that are important to human medicine," he said. "We support McDonald's decision, and, in fact, we worked very closely with them on this decision because we were already headed in that direction."
Shares of Tyson Foods dropped after March 4, the day McDonald's announced a move away from chicken raised with medically important antibiotics. Antimicrobials that aren't used in human medicine, like ionophores, will continue to be allowed by the restaurant chain.
McDonald's is a "top 10" customer for Tyson, and the company has several facilities dedicated to the chain, Leatherby said.
In October 2014, Tyson stopped using antibiotics at its 35 hatcheries. From 2011 to 2014, the company reduced human-antibiotic use on farms by 84 percent.
Leathery said Tyson had stopped using human antibiotics in chicken feed in January. He also mentioned that a Tyson Foods brand offers chicken that is raised without any antibiotic use.
"Our size has allowed us to get more involved in the no-antibiotics-ever offering at retail under our Nature Raised Farms [brand]," Leatherby said.
Apart from antibiotic use, Andy Callahan, president of retail packaged brands, said product development at Tyson's innovation centers in Springdale, Arkansas, and Downers Grove, Illinois, remains strong.
The company will soon release Ball Park beef jerky and a Hillshire snacking line.
"Innovation is the lifeblood of brand growing," Callahan said. "We have a pipeline that is very strong."