Perdue is moving its No Antibiotics Ever labeled protein into mainstream grocery categories and foodservice menu items with the rapid transition of its entire frozen, refrigerated and fresh value-added chicken products and all of its foodservice turkey items to No Antibiotics Ever (NAE). Perdue made the announcement during the 2016 Annual Meat Conference in Nashville.
According to a press release from the company, the transition, taking place now, will make Perdue the first major brand to convert all of its value-added chicken products to No Antibiotics Ever, providing consumers with choices in every category – fresh, refrigerated and frozen. The conversion to No Antibiotics Ever at retail includes all Perdue brand heat-and-eat and pre-seasoned chicken items, such as retail nuggets, strips and grilled strips. It ensures that consumers do not have to forego the confidence that comes with No Antibiotics Ever for the convenience they want, nor will they have to wait years. Products will hit shelves this month, with the conversion continuing through May. Perdue is distributing those products coast-to-coast.
The conversion to No Antibiotics Ever for all foodservice turkey items means that more than 150 No Antibiotics Ever menu items are now available to independent operators through foodservice distributors across the country. The foodservice turkey items join a complete line of No Antibiotics Ever menu-ready chicken distributed under the No Antibiotics Ever and other foodservice brands.
Eric Christianson, senior vice president of marketing and innovation, explains the scale of Perdue’s latest advancement in No Antibiotics Ever consumer products: “In the retail sector, we’re converting all branded refrigerated and frozen convenience products to No Antibiotics Ever, bringing the total number of products with the claim to more than 200. In just a few months, we will take NAE mainstream, moving it beyond select fresh items and niche brands and making Perdue No Antibiotics Ever chicken products available everywhere consumers shop for chicken in the grocery store. The combination of converting our everyday, go-to Perdue products to No Antibiotics Ever, along with our No Antibiotics Ever foodservice offerings, represents a significant transformation in the market. We’re raising the bar on the choices consumers can expect right now.”
The announcement follows the company’s continued leadership in minimizing antibiotic use: two-thirds of the company’s chickens are now raised without any antibiotics of any kind, up from 50 percent six months ago. And although raising turkey without antibiotics is more difficult than chicken, Perdue has nonetheless converted more than half of its turkey raising to No Antibiotics Ever, a major shift in turkey production practices.
“The No Antibiotics Ever distinction is very important to us,” said Chairman Jim Perdue. “That claim is transparent and absolutely clear to consumers: no antibiotics of any kind, at any time. Consumers have a number of concerns around antibiotic use, and they deserve products that address all those concerns with a promise they can trust. That’s why we back up the No Antibiotics Ever claim on Peerdue consumer chicken products with a USDA Process Verified Program.”
Latest milestones in eliminating antibiotics
The increase in No Antibiotics Ever chicken and turkey production marks further milestones in Perdue’s progression away from antibiotic use. In 2014, Perdue became the first major chicken company to eliminate the routine use of all human antibiotics from every production step, proving that producers did not need to rely on antibiotics to raise healthy chickens. The company eliminated antibiotic use for growth promotion in 2007.
Other major companies are dedicating a small portion of their products to be raised without antibiotics, or promising future reductions in antibiotic use. Perdue, however, has already converted the majority of its production to NAE, and is now distributing a full range of products under its marquee brands.
“Other large companies may have taken antibiotics out of a small segment of their total production, but we’re changing our production practices across the company,” said Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, Perdue’s senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production.
Perdue is raising No Antibiotics Ever chickens at nine of its processing complexes. “We don’t know of any other company successfully raising that many chickens without any antibiotics at all,” said Stewart-Brown. “We started our journey away from antibiotics 12 years ago, and know it takes time to do it right. It’s not just taking antibiotics out; it’s learning how to raise healthy birds and prevent disease without antibiotics. Of course, should a flock get sick and require an antibiotic, we will treat the flock but it won’t be sold as NAE.”
New frontiers in turkey and foodservice
“We are especially proud that we’re now raising more than half of our turkeys without any antibiotics,” said Stewart-Brown. “Raising turkeys without antibiotics is more challenging than chickens but, like everything else we do, it’s a process of continuous improvement and not accepting the status quo.”
Perdue’s success in raising turkeys without antibiotics extends the company’s leadership beyond the grocery store. Converting its entire foodservice turkey line to No Antibiotics Ever is the company’s latest step toward helping restaurant operators meet consumer demand for menu items featuring meat raised without antibiotics.
“When it comes to antibiotic use, we find that consumers have many of the same concerns when they dine out as they do when they shop for their families,” said Doug Wickman, Perdue’s vice-president of foodservice sales and marketing.
Perdue Foodservice has 10 child-nutrition approved school menu items that meet the raised without antibiotics requirements of the Urban School Food Alliance, and has eight of the nine poultry plants listed by School Food Focus as meeting the “Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use” standard. Perdue is also meeting the needs of hospitals, colleges and universities, schools and other institutional customers whose menus promote a move away from conventional antibiotic use.
“Consumers are demanding No Antibiotics Ever products, and so-to are the grocery stores, restaurants and cafeterias who serve those consumers,” said Perdue. “Our commitment to raise as many animals as possible with no antibiotics ever responds to that concern with clarity and transparency.”