Tyson Foods' Chicken: Raised with Antibiotics

Despite corresponding feeding practices in large-scale industrial operations, in 2007, Tyson Foods sought to capitalize on growing consumer concern about the excessive use of antibiotics by marketing its chicken as “Raised Without Antibiotics.” While making this claim, Tyson was in fact feeding chickens ionophores which are classified by USDA as antibiotics. Though the USDA regrettably approved the claim, it was later revoked. Arguing that ionophores are not used in human medicine, Tyson Foods proposed a modified label claim: “Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics That Impact Antibiotic Resistance in Humans.” Virtually all intensively farmed animals receive low levels of antibiotics in their feed or water throughout their lives to expeditiously get them to market weight. When animals are confined indoors by the thousands, antibiotics are also used to suppress disease. By 2008, Tyson Foods withdrew its modified label, and recently the company agreed to settle a class action consumer lawsuit for its false “Raised Without Antibiotics” claim. The $5 million in compensation it is expected to pay is unfortunately of little consequence to the company with annual revenues of nearly $27 billion.

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