Monday, January 28, 2008

Tyson Chicken ... Raised Without Antibiotics

I came across some interesting news today as I was scanning the internet today. It seems that Tyson Chicken announced a new product and label this summer. They new product and label is/was planned to be called "Raised without Antibiotics". You can read Tyson's press release by clicking HERE. Now, the reason I wrote "is/was" is that that was their planned label for the product, but now the USDA and Tyson have worked out an agreement to change the label name to, "Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans". I have a feeling the words that start with lowercase letters will be in smaller print.

One side note is that Tyson Chicken considers the name change a victory. You can read a little bit about a lawsuit that was filed against them by clicking HERE. Tyson won because the judge noted that they had worked with the USDA to change the name.

Now, this news as all very relevant for the farmer and consumer alike, but I think there are a couple of key details that we need to take out of this whole deal...

First of all, if you take the time to read through Tyson Chickens press release you will notice that their main reason for doing this is because the customers were asking for it. So, the people do want better food ... and ... they are willing to pay more for it (because the new product will cost more than "regular" Tyson chicken). I see this is a large food company trying to play catch up. That doesn't mean that small farmers are winning or even starting to win, but it does mean that the small farmers with their intimate connection with their customers can meet their needs and give them something that they are comfortable eating. Plus, if people want "antibiotic free" chicken that means that they probably also desire humanely raised chicken ... we just need to let them know that it is out there! So, there is a bright side to this sad story.

Secondly, I think this proves (did this really need proving) that the government isn't out there to help the small farmer. Like I said, I'm pretty sure everyone already knows this, but here it is again in black and white. What we need to do is work together as a body of farmers and consumers and then we can begin to effect change. Remember work together ... farmers and consumers!

And finally, this proves that Tyson is producing chicken that has antibiotic impact our antibiotic resistance. Obviously many people already knew that, but once they start running ads on television and in the paper promoting their new product savvy farmers selling directly to their consumers can use it to educate people about real food, real relationships, and real local business.

Let's face it ... Tyson Chicken isn't going away anytime soon (if ever) and I probably wouldn't vote for a governmental law to shut them down (just look how well that works with the USDA as the enforcer!). But, I think we can use this disappointing news for our benefit if we are creative and bold!

6 comments:

Shauna said...

I see it as Tyson trying to also take advantage of a growing market that should rightly go to those that have been producing their food this way all along. Also, it seems like a threat to small, local producers. In any event, they will get no business from me. I buy only from local people that I know. At least the industry is recognizing consumer concerns, I guess.

Ethan Book said...

Shauna ... thanks for commenting and checking out the blog! I also believe Tyson is trying to grab on to this growing market, but I think (or hope) that the direction the market is growing is towards people like you that recognize what Tyson is really about and what they are really doing. Like I said, I think instead of being down in the dumps we need to seize onto this as a great marketing tool!

Kramer said...

I use to be a land surveyor and many of the jobs I had were surveying commercial chicken houses. There is nothing that these companies can say to make me feel like they are improving things. It doesn't matter what you feed these chickens if you aren't going to provide them with the essential daily functions that make them chickens. It is truly disgusting how this chickens are housed and until that is changed, there is no way you can keep from pumping these things full of antibiotics. No different than stock yards. Don't show me pictures of feed, show me housing conditions. Then we'll see what kinda steps they are taking.

Ethan Book said...

Kramer ... I agree that it is a pretty sad state of affairs. Sad for the chickens and the consumers, but also sad that the farmers are subjecting themselves to that as a lifestyle.

Mellifera said...

How interesting. I wonder how they plan to do this in a way that doesn't cause antibiotic resistance in human microbes- I don't think it's possible.

Why not? There are all kinds of different antibiotics, but they all belong to only about 16 different classes. Once a microbe acquires resistance to an antibiotic, it usually has increased resistance to others in that class. So even if they're using an antibiotic that's not used for people (and thus you can claim it "doesn't contribute to antibiotic resistance in people,") there are other AB's in that class that people do use that will have decreased efficacy as a result of overuse in chickens. So... sorry Tyson, I think you're full of it.

PS: I work in a veterinary microbiology lab. So there. : )

Ethan Book said...

Mellifera ... hmmm, Tyson full of it? Yeah, probably not much of a stretch there. Thanks for the comment and the insight!

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