Perdue Expands ‘No Antibiotics Ever Poultry’ Program
Perdue is moving “No Antibiotics Ever” (NAE) protein into mainstream grocery categories and foodservice menu items by rapid transitioning its entire frozen, refrigerated and fresh value-added chicken products and all of its foodservice turkey items to meet antibiotics-free specifications across the board. The Salisbury, Maryland, USA-headquartered company made the announcement during Annual Meat Conference held recently in Nashville, Tennessee.
The transition, taking place now, will make Perdue the first major brand to convert all of its value-added chicken products to NAE status, providing consumers with choices in every category. The conversion at retail includes all of its branded heat-and-eat and pre-seasoned chicken items, such as retail nuggets, strips and grilled strips. Products will hit store shelves this month, with the conversion continuing from coast to coast through May.
"In the retail sector, we're converting all branded frozen and refrigerated convenience products to NAE, bringing the total number of products with the claim to more than 200,” said Eric Christianson, senior vice president of marketing and innovation. “In just a few months, we will take the program mainstream, moving it beyond select items and niche brands and making our chicken products available everywhere consumers shop for chicken in the grocery store. The combination of converting our everyday, go-to Perdue products to NAE, along with our NAE foodservice offerings represents a significant transformation in the market. We're raising the bar on the choices consumers can expect right now."
Two-thirds of the company's chickens are now raised without antibiotics of any kind, up from 50 percent six months ago. And although raising turkey without antibiotics is more difficult than producing chicken, Perdue has nonetheless converted more than half of its turkey production to NAE.
"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 NAE claim on Perdue consumer chicken products with a USDA Process Verified Program."
Latest Milestones in Eliminating Antibiotics
In 2014, Perdue became the first major chicken company in the USA 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 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, Perdue's senior vice president of food safety, quality and live production.
Perdue is now raising NAE 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 the senior vice president. "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 NAE is the latest step toward helping restaurant operators meet consumer demand for menu items featuring meat raised without antibiotics.
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. The company 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 NAE products, and so are the grocery stores, restaurants and cafeterias who serve those consumers," Chairman Perdue. "Our commitment to raise as many animals as possible with no antibiotics ever responds to that concern with clarity and transparency."