Some of the nation's largest chicken producers plan to curb their use of antibiotics in farm animals amid rising health concerns from consumers.
Sanderson Farms will evidently not be among them.
Joe Sanderson, CEO of the Mississippi-based company, this week said that Sanderson would administer antibiotics to chickens due to a lack of alternatives to treat a common disease.
Rather than allow animals to suffer and potentially die from necrotic enteritis, Sanderson told The Wall Street Journal, the use of antibiotics would continue.
“We have a duty to take care of the animals," Sanderson said.
Meat producers for decades administered routine doses of antibiotics to farm animals to prevent or treat disease and hasten animal development, although a 2013 U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy aims to eliminate the latter.
The prevalence of antibiotics in the food industry drew concerns from health officials and consumers as incidences of bacterial infections that resist antibiotics increased.
As a result, chicken producers including Perdue, Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson announced steps to decrease or eliminate their use of antibiotics considered medically important to humans. Restaurant chains McDonald's and Chick-fil-A also indicated they would stop selling chickens raised with antibiotics.
Sanderson, however, characterized the concerns as overblown.
"There’s no reliable science that says by using these [government]-approved antibiotics, that there is going to be any resistance," Sanderson told the Journal.
Health authorities largely disagree.
"These are not targeted uses aimed at specific bugs for defined duration," Johns Hopkins University’s Keeve Nachman told Reuters last year. "They’re multiple, repeat shotgun blasts that will certainly kill off weaker bugs and promote the stronger, more resistant ones."
A recent FDA report, meanwhile, showed the use of important antibiotics food animals increased 20 percent between 2009 and 2013. The agency hopes to learn more about their use on farms through pharmaceutical company sales data.