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Drastic reduction in antibiotic use announced by third largest U.S. chicken producer

Chicken production

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(NaturalNews) Finally, consumer demands are beginning to be met by some corporations in the food industry. Consumer advocacy groups, food activists and alternative media have all contributed to pushing the boundaries of the food industry in a way that offers true customer satisfaction.

The most recent victory arrives following an announcement by the country's third-largest poultry producer, Perdue Foods.

At a press conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C., the poultry giant announced that they have completely stopped the use of antibiotics in all chicken hatcheries, according to a report by Food Safety News.

The company said they quit using growth-promoting human antibiotics on chickens as early as 2007. Perdue also claims they never used antibiotics in the chickens' feed but used animal-only antibiotics prescribed by veterinarians to treat and control illnesses.

"When we started hearing from consumers that they were becoming concerned about the amount of antibiotics used to raise chickens that they were buying, we were listening," said a spokesperson for Perdue.

"We feel like we're doing the right thing for the people and for the birds"

Well it's about time. For decades, farmers have been using antibiotics on beef and chicken to promote weight gain and faster development. Concerns regarding antibiotic-treated meat stems from the fear of rising resistant bacteria, such as MRSA and CRE, that are untreatable by drugs. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can pass from meat to people when consumed, creating illnesses that cannot be treated by modern-day pharmaceuticals.

Factory farms cram tens of thousands of antibiotic-treated chickens into tiny living quarters, confinements that, without the use of drugs, would be unlivable. Antibiotics inhumanely allow the chicken to reach its full growth in just six weeks, rather than the normal 140 days, causing them to sometimes be crippled by their own weight.

Factory farm conditions are outright filthy, plagued with disease and overall unbearable. Because so many birds are crammed together, the air is thick with ammonia and particulate matter from feces and feathers, causing respiratory diseases, bronchitis and "ammonia burn," a painful, burning eye condition, according to PETA.

In 2006, Consumer Reports found that 83 percent of chickens bought in the grocery store were infected with either Campylobacter or Salmonella bacteria, or both.

Interested only in making a profit, large-scale poultry producers sacrifice animal welfare and human health just to make a buck. Chickens raised on antibiotics have a horrible quality of life, suffering immensely from overcrowded living conditions and an array of heath complications.

Broiler chickens, which are raised for their meat, grow so fast on antibiotics that their underdeveloped heart and lungs are incapable of supporting such a large body, often causing heart attacks and lung collapse that is highly unlikely to occur in nature, according to Feedstuffs, a meat-industry magazine.

Twelve years ago, all of the chickens raised by Perdue were exposed to human-type antibiotics at some point in their lives, according to Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, the company's senior vice president of Food Safety, Quality and Live Operations.

Today, less than 5 percent are treated with drugs

Cleaning targeted areas more effectively, removing animal byproducts from the feed and adding probiotics has allowed Perdue to significantly lower antibiotic usage, practices all that poultry producers could perform if they wanted to.

"It really is a big deal, and we would love to see the rest of the poultry industry and the food animal industry in general follow suit," Dr. Gail Hansen, a senior officer for The Pew Charitable Trust's campaign on human health and industrial farming, told Food Safety News.

"It's something that public health has been asking for, and they figured out a way to make it happen."

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